–despite progress made by USAID Supply Chain Management System Project
By Shauna Jemmott
MINISTER within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings,has said that untimely delivery of medicines and medical supplies is still an irritant to Guyana’s public health sector.This is despite tremendous efforts by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) project over the years to address this problem.
Minister Cummings made the remarks at an elaborate close-out appreciation ceremony organised by the Public Health Ministry and USAID SCMS to draw the curtain on the project, which was launched here just over a decade ago.
For people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries, cost-effective, reliable, secure and sustainable supply chains can save millions of lives.
For more than 10 years, the SCMS has been saving lives through stronger supply chains.
The SCMS is managed by the Partnership for Supply Chain Management and the project’s joint effort resulted in the establishment of a 26,951 square metres, state-of-the-art Supply Chain Management Complex, which is fully staffed and temperature-controlled with excellent ventilation.
The facility was opened on March 8, 2013, pinpointed by U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby on the USAID website, as “a significant step forward on [the] path [to creating an AIDS-free generation], and toward building Guyana’s world-class pharmaceutical-grade operation.”
It was hailed on Friday as the first of its kind which meaningfully involved many of the country’s pharmacists.
Dr Cummings said despite its success, “there still remain a number of challenges at all levels of the public health system.”
She noted that apart from the untimely delivery of medicines and medical supplies, the monitoring of drugs, facilities and dispensaries throughout the sector needs significant improvement in order to ensure quality assurance of goods and efficient delivery to health units.
“This objective, however, can only be achieved if there are coordinated efforts at all levels to strengthen the overall pharmaceutical systems within the public health sector.”
There is need for strengthening of Guyana’s Logistics Management Information System (LMIS) through improved requisitions, communications and resource management, the minister said.
WORK IN PROGRESS
She said Supply Chain Management is still a work in progress and in order for greater value to be added in the public sector, such system must function optimally.
“It is imperative that as we transition this project we strategically focus on how the various components of our supply chain management systems interact with the rest of the public health sector, as well as its external parties to meet the needs of our customers,” Minister Cummings said.
In the areas of procurement and storage and the management and distribution of medicines and medical supplies, significant capacity-building has been realised and through grants from international partners, Guyana has been able to more efficiently procure, store, and distribute medicines and commodities purchased, to all of Government’s public health institutions.
“With the unremitting support offered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as through the USAID-funded Supply Chain Management System Project, the Ministry of Public Health Materials Management Unit has undergone significant transformational changes,” the minister said.
These changes are timely, presenting themselves when they are necessary to deliver quality and effective healthcare to all.
The U.S. Government has over the years strongly supported Guyana in the fight against HIV/AIDS through a number of initiatives, with priceless benefits.
BUILDING ON SUCCESS
Though the SCMS project has come to an end, Minister Cummings said her desire is to ensure that the excellent work established continues unobstructed, and is further established.
“There will be ongoing efforts to further strengthen the management of medicines and medical products, along with maintaining their accompanying records. Further, sharp focus on streamlining established processes and extending their reach to the more remote regions and communities of Guyana will be priority goals.”
The Chain Management Warehouse Complex commissioned in 2013 at Diamond, East Bank Demerara, is one of the most tangible outcomes of the project.
That complex was financed by USAID, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, in collaboration with the Health Ministry through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
It possessed the first fully functional Radio Frequency Warehouse Management System in the Caribbean.
U.S. Ambassador Perry Holloway said the SCMS helped Guyana to strengthen its supply chain and staff development to ensure the availability of antiretroviral medicines and other key HIV/AIDS health commodities.
He said when the SCMS Guyana office was established here in May 2006, Government committed to providing universal access to antiretroviral medicines for all Guyanese living with HIV and AIDS, and has been able to develop systems and technical skills of staff for the delivery of effective service.
Apart from the physical structure, the project revisited the organisational structure of the warehouse, defined departments and sub-departments, roles and responsibilities, reporting, and communication lines for the effective functioning of the facility,” the diplomat said.
He added that significant capacity- development efforts resulted in the training of over 1,000 staff members to improve management, planning, procurement, and distribution of all pharmaceuticals in Guyana.
The project also developed computerised systems for requesting, tracking, storing and distributing all the ministry’s drugs and supplies with the ability to track every product and transaction.
Holloway was pleased with the progress that has been made in the health sector after 10 years of investment here by the U.S. Government.