Regions get 60% of primary drugs need

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Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence

…as gov’t moves to address shortage, strengthen procurement

MINISTER of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence said that all of the regions across the country have received 60 percent of their primary drug needs in an aim to address an ongoing drug shortage.

This announcement was made even as the Minister moves toward creating a better system to ensure efficiency in the procurement and distribution of drugs to serve the health needs of Guyanese.

The Minister, in an interview with the Ministry of the Presidency’s Press and Publicity Unit, said that as of January 30, 2017, seven out of the 10 Administrative Regions, which were asked to submit a list of drugs needed, were provided with 60 percent of the required drugs. The three remaining regions, she said, indicated that they were no immediate drug needs.

As the Ministry continues to engage suppliers, it is expected that the remaining 40 percent, though not immediately needed by the regions, would be provided in the coming days. “We have one of the containers, which arrived last Friday and presently we are taking possession so that we can distribute to the various regions. Not many of them would have need for some of the drugs that are here presently. As we speak, we are engaging with suppliers because we are going to treat it as an emergency so that we can have those drugs arrive through a quicker process than would be the norm and so our outside date is February 15,” she said.

Last Thursday, while conducting a tour at the Ministry of Public Health’s Drug Bond, located at Diamond, the Minister found several gaps and loopholes, which she said needed to be addressed. Among the gaps identified was the shortage of some drugs at the bond. After the tour, the Minister immediately convened a meeting with her Directors, Permanent Secretary and other officers from the Ministry to begin work on creating short and long term solutions to prevent a re-occurrence. At the same time, the Director of Regional Health Services was mandated by Minister Lawrence to make contact with all of the regions across the country to ensure that they were not affected and to determine their primary drug needs.

Already, the Minister has begun taking steps to facilitate a change in the system, which governs the procurement, storage and distribution of drugs. From engaging suppliers to determining the estimated arrival of shipments and challenges affecting deliveries, to completely overhauling the management system, Minister Lawrence is committed to seeing the gaps and loopholes removed from the health centre. The Ministry, she said, has a lot of work to do but she is optimistic that it will be achieved.

“We are looking at how data is captured in terms of needs and to ensure that the averages, which are taken for the various drugs across the regions that that is as accurate as possible so that we are not ordering short quantities which creates a need. We are seeking to ensure that we fill those vacancies, especially with the officers within the various regions, whose job requires them to ensure that the register for the drugs in stock, usage and balance are done in a timely manner and that information is forwarded to the Secretariat in a timely manner. We are also going to look at the system. It is still a paper system and too many papers shuffling around the place and we are going to work with our partners to ensure that we review the present system and have an electronic system put in place so that the connection is there,” she said.

Further, the Minister noted that work will also have to be done in determining critical levels for drugs and examining the right number and looking at the stock factor in checking the critical levels. The onus, she said, is on her to address the deficiencies and these will be addressed during her leadership at the Ministry.

“We are looking at our critical levels because if you look at your critical levels it gives you time to place an order to have the process done because all of that is taken into consideration in arriving at that level. We have to ensure that we have the right data, the correct information. We have to correct from within. The government has recognised that there are issues and that we also recognise and believe that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation and we are working towards removing the bottlenecks and removing the gaps. I have dedicated persons, intelligent persons and persons fitting to be in this sector. What I have to do is to give them the tools to do their work and do it in a timely manner,” Minister Lawrence said.

(Ministry of the Presidency)