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President Ramotar laments drug wastage, shortage ; Health Strategy includes improved procurement

President Donald Ramotar (left) receives a copy of “Health Vision 2020- A National Health Strategy for Guyana 2013-2020” from Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran. Also present are Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud and Permanent Secretary, Leslie Cadogan

President Donald Ramotar on Monday expressed concern about the shortage of drugs and dumping of large quantities of expired drugs by public health care institutions.

Addressing the Ministry of Health’s launch of “Health Vision 2020- A National Health Strategy for Guyana 2013-2020”, the Guyanese leader said “that is totally unacceptable.”

“What is taking place these are things that we have to correct. We are a poor country,” he said at the event held at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC).

The 113-page strategy hopes to achieve “equitable and timely access to affordable drugs and medical supplies” through a number of steps.

The President challenged the Ministry of Health’s management team would take those concerns into account because the social sectors are interconnected. “Resources are not unlimited and there is a lot of need out there,” he said, urging persons to go into interior regions to understand, appreciate and be more careful in how they handle some of government’s resources.

Ramotar said he has spoken with the Health Minister and the Permanent Secretary following complaints by ordinary Guyanese around the country about shortage of drugs. He noted that although huge sums are spent on drugs, government still has to turn around and procure emergency supplies to cope with shortages.

He queried why the Health Ministry was not tapping into its decades-old institutional knowledge to inform decisions on how pharmaceuticals should be purchased and used.  “That is not acceptable at all and I think we have to put more thought,” he said.

Noting that Guyana is performing well in achieving many of the United Nations-set Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ramotar said monies wasted on pharmaceuticals could be better used. “How much more could be done if we did not have these kinds of wastage?” he said.

The President conceded that government was in some ways being justifiably criticised by the opposition because of the tardiness associated with the procuring, distribution and availability of drugs. The Auditor General has been reporting huge discrepancies and voicing serious concerns about the manner in which government has been procuring drugs. Millions of dollars worth of drugs are procured annually from the New Guyana Pharamceutical Corporation (NGPC).

“Health Vision 2020- A National Health Strategy for Guyana 2013-2020” states that its strategic interventions include reviewing and updating the Essential Drugs List in 2015 and 2018, monitoring compliance with Standard Treatment Guidelines to ensure rational use of medicines and reviewing and instituting reforms to establish a robust Logistics Management Information System for Drugs and Medical Supplies.

The Health Ministry also intends to conduct a service provision assessment of the entire health system by 2015 including a comprehensive needs assessment to rationalise and expand the drugs and medical supplies. The strategy also calls for developing arrangements for pooled procurement through the Pan American Health Organisation, assessing and addressing gaps in storage infrastructure in health facilities in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine; establishing Standard Operational Procedures for medical supplies procurement, including those outside of the essential medicines list, consistent with national procurement policies and guidelines, and developing and institutionalizing the use of technical specifications to guide the procurement of drugs and medical supplies.

Among the targets and milestones in this area are decreasing the number of health facilities that report stock-outs in essential medicines and blood products by 2017.