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Massive countrywide drugs shortage hits GPHC, other govt-run health facilities

The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly in session on Monday, January 25, 2016.

The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly in session on Monday, January 25, 2016.

A serious drug shortage has hit Guyana’s public health sector countrywide because of insufficient funds at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the incapability of the 10 administrative regions to buy their own supplies after the 2015 National Budget was passed in August last year.

This was told Monday to the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by top officials of the GPHC and the Ministry of Public Health.

In the case of health facilities across the 10 Regional Administrations, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Trevor Thomas  told the PAC that they returned a total of GYD$600 million at the end of last year because they were unable to purchase drugs at the regional level.

Thomas said the major problem appeared to be the fact that most of the Regional Health Officers are recently trained doctors with less than five years experience and were not equipped with the required administrative skills to deal with drug purchases. The 10-month old coalition government last year decided to decentralize drug purchases, but Thomas said the monies and lists of drugs that should have been procured were returned in December, 2015. He added that a number of regions told him that they were only able to collect their monies as late as October or December, 2015.

Despite the constraints, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health told the PAC that the decentralized purchasing system should not be abandoned at this stage but it should be given some more time. “I believe that every system should be given a fair chance to work,” he said. Thomas further recommended close coordination among the Ministries of Health, Communities- which is responsible for the Regional Executive Officers -and Finance. Another possible solution, he said, was a request for the Director of Regional Health Services to formally request from Regional Health Officers to provide a list of the “critical and short” drugs to decide how to address the issue.

Juan Edghill, representing the People’s Progressive Party Civic on the PAC, lamented that “six hundred million dollars of medical services were not given to the people of Guyana because of gross neglect by accounting officers to discharge their responsibilities in a timely manner.”

“To compound this problem is the present shortage that exists countrywide when there was no shortage of money. I could understand shortage if there was no money but now when there is money and people are suffering, I have a concern with that,” he said.

Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation

Across at the GPHC,  Chief Executive Officer, Allan Johnson said cash-flow problems at that health care institution has resulted in a shortage of drugs after having  sought to regularize supplies with a short shelf-life. “We also purchase a lot of our drugs with short shelf life, indeed, because we purchase our drugs from New GPC (Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation) and we store our drugs at New GPC also because we don’t have any storehouse,” said Johnson.

Johnson explained to the PAC that he has stopped the contract with New GPC, which has been sending drugs that the GPHC does not need, and he had made efforts to order drugs for December and January to help bring the supply of drugs back on track.

He said a budget was submitted to the Finance Ministry since October, 2015 but there has been no response.

PAC Chairman, Irfaan Ali instructed the GPHC’s boss to meet with Finance Secretary Dr. Hector Butts on Tuesday to ascertain how the health care institution could access one-twelfth of last year’s budget to purchase drugs ahead of the 2016 National Budget to be presented on Friday. Ali said it would take much longer to await the passage of the 2016 budget this month before going through the lengthy process of tendering and procurement which would result.

Yvonne Bullen told the PAC that since she was appointed GPHC’s Pharmacy Administrator in October, 2015, she observed that the drugs being supplied to that health care institution had a shelf life as short as four months and large amounts of some drugs were being supplied more than that hospital required.

“Drugs were received with expiry dates as low as four months. Some of them seem to be inflated….There are other cases where drugs were ordered that were not even on the hospital formulary,” she said. Bullen recalled that some time ago 220,000 tablets were ordered but when the consignment arrived, it was six million tablets.

Bullen the GPC currently does not have aspirin, paracetamol, B-complex and some antibiotics. “It’s critical. These are some of the drugs that we need,” she said, adding that there are other drugs to treat kidney transplant recipients and cancer patients. “We do not get supplies in adequate quantities,” she added. According to a list circulated to PAC members, 68 of the 186 items needed are classified as “important.”

Government back-bencher for Region 10, Jermaine Figuiera expressed grave concern about the way the procurement process for drugs was being handled and urged the authorities to take remedial action. “There is definitely a problem that exists with regards to how we manage the operations of the Georgetown Public Hospital and I think some serious approach needs to be meted out to curb this unfortunate situation,” he said.

The GPHC currently owes suppliers GYD$500 million.

The GPHC’s CEO said the institution’s pharmacist has advised him that a former top official there had been in the practice of inflating lists of drug supplies whenever she had submitted hers. He said the GHPC’s bond has a lot of items that the hospital would never use.

The PPP’s Edghill called on the PAC to endorse his call for an immediate investigation into the running of the Materials Management Unit. “That is the nerve centre to ensure adequate supplies of drugs are there and I will further ask that there be a value for money audit done by the Auditor General’s Office as it relates to this particular matter to see what is going on,” said Edghill, a former Junior Finance Minister.

  • Emile_Mervin

    Irfaan Ali should demand that Ransinghi Ramroop, aka, Bobby or Jagdeo’s BF, be brought before the PAC and explain how the hell he could take public funds and buy drugs in excess quantities with short shelf lives and then charge the government to store the drugs in his warehouse?

    This is like buying aspirins for pain in January 2016, but the aspirins will expire in April 2016. Manufacturers usually try to get rid of their products on the cheap whenever the shelf life is approaching expiration date, and bulk purchases are encouraged. This is what Bobby’s New GPC appeared to have been doing for years, and Jagdeo knew of it, but he did not care as long as he and his friend made a financial killing.

    This behavior is tantamount to a criminal action by Bobby, with support from the PPP government, and I am sure if it were America or Canada or Britain, some sort of legal action would have been initiated.

    • Danny Persaud

      Hey grunty
      Ur sounding like a clown..Ur running out of ideas..can u tell ur idols them to stop the starvation of the nation of its medication…

  • Col123

    The potency of most medications extend beyond the manufacturers’ suggested expiration dates. However , governmental and pharmaceutical including health care accreditation bodies, would require strict compliance with the manufacturers’ suggested expiration date. The issue at hand with depleted medical supplies appears to have been from a new system of acquiring drugs at the Regional level. The system it seems, was challenged by 1- insufficient funds, 2-inability of ten regional administrators (?inexperienced) to utilize the decentralized system(new) to get their supplies…among other extraneous related and some irrelevant non contributing issues according to the report. Since it is a new system , it appears from the reports that some one “dropped the ball” and did not make sure the process was followed accordingly. The Permanent Secretary may want to apply a “through put system” with the new current process, which will guarantee the continuous flow of drug supplies , based upon demand. It is a simple process. Our Brig. General President would be familiar with it since it a common process used in the military, for resupply of critical items involving replacement for repairs/maintenance/supplies a war scenario….if not I can help for gratis.If new methodologies/processes are utilized to improve the health of our communities, we should test it , supervise and overlook it until the kinks are removed. There are a lot to learn from past mistakes, disparaging other does not help.

    • Emile_Mervin


      The real problem is not any new governmental system but the unavailability of drugs. Okay? The coalition government came to power in May 2015. The 2015 Budget was presented in August 2015. How on earth can a new system of disbursing budget allocations affect drug supplies five months later?

      Effective and efficient management systems demand that there be at least a year’s worth of supplies of basic drugs at regional levels. The cut off point to avert a crisis should be six months. But this crisis was rooted in uncaring and selfish politics, which saw the PPP sole-sourcing drugs supplies to Bobby, who then went out and ordered drugs in excess of what was requested by the government, because he was buying in bulk with short shelf lives of, for example, four months from supply date.

      So, instead of drugs lasting a year or more in his bond, which government paid him rent to store the short-lived drugs, the government had to dump the drugs. This is what you call creating an artificial shortage with real time effects.

      I am saying it is criminal to take government money and buy drugs with short shelf lives, thereby creating a health crisis. Jagdeo knew of what Bobby was doing and this warrants a criminal probe.

      • Col123

        Emile : the first para of this story addressed 1-because of insufficient funds at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and 2-the incapability of the 10 administrative regions to buy their own supplies after the 2015 National Budget. This is the premise to which I have responded.I do not have any dog in this fight…I have said that before. A previous comment by you ,appearing on this story, which discredited my academic ability, suddenly disappeared….and that is fine. The bottom line is: there are humans suffering because of lack of basic medications, a first line in their basic physiological needs. I see it fit, not to add to anyone’s burden of anger or irritation…but attempt to understand the problems stated in this report. This problem requires solving NOW, I can help with the process, I offered, there are flickers of hope in our society…let us kindle it…I would not let your bitter personal/infinite knowledgeable relationship with others, interfere with my sense of fair play and citizenship… and no…perishables require special considerations before purchase…I can,, but I would consider several variables prior to a purchase.

        • Emile_Mervin


          1. Look again at the last sentence of your original post and you do have a dog in this fight, because we gave to disparage those that allowed greed to guide their actions with no attempt to change course.

          2. This news story is the culmination of previous stories that spoke to a drugs supply system that favored New GPC over the benefits of the very people you suddenly realize are suffering.

          3. A proper supply and storage system would have allowed for at least 12 to 18 months supply of basic, fast-moving drugs, so that even if there is a change of government or management, there should not be a massive drugs shortage nationwide in 12 months. But under the PPP system of drugs expiring within four months of supply, this is the net effect we now face.

          4. Most materials storage facilities have a max-min system that allows for a maximum and minimum amount of items in bonds or warehouses. When the stocks reach a minimum level of 6 months supply remaining, a yellow flag is raised. With 3 months supply remaining, a red flag is raised. It is grossly irresponsible for anyone, including politicians, to allow for the minimum stock level to be completely depleted and then scream there is a massive shortage. You have gone past red and are heading for a collision.

          5. As matters now stand, an emergency allocation of funds by Parliament (not Cabinet) is needed for expedited procurement, supply and distribution of drugs to hospitals and regions on an as-needs basis until this broken PPP system of sile-sourcing and storage is fixed.

          • Col123

            1- You are free to disparage whom ever. That is your choice.
            2- you are pivoting to other related news item which had other premise.
            3- Medications require special handling and storage unlike other merchandise/equipment.
            4 . There are several schools of thought on this subject…we can agree to dis agree.
            5- This report is alluding to a new system which was implemented by the Permanent Secretary.
            6- your response usually stray towards that position of having personal knowledge of others..and you have excellent skills at pivoting…that is known.

    • Emile_Mervin

      If you don’t know or understand basic business principles and protocols, you should not comment and expose your ignorance.

      Read the story again or have someone with a working brain help you understand the problem is a massive shortage of drugs in the regions. How can that be possible if not because the PPP regime left a messed up system behind? The coalition could not create or cause this in 8 months.

      The PPP sole-sourcing of drugs to Bobby is the root cause, since Bobby took the money and bought short-lived drugs. Absolute greed is behind this massive drugs shortage and it should be investigated and Bobby should be blacklisted from doing business with the state for 24 months.

  • brain dead idiot

    back to the dark days no contract given to anyone for supply of drugs to gov they all being talking when they was out of government now they mouth in they backside well it seems as though people here being and inspect the drugs at bobby warehouse so they know it was expired you should talk something that make sense like fuel prices high in guyana and the minister talking crap but long term saving he not saying how much taxes they collecting on the fuel the cart in front of the jackass, jagdeo for president .

    • Emile_Mervin

      Would you run a pharmacy or drug store that buys in bulk quantities an assortment of consumer items with only four months left before expiration date? No, you wouldn’t, because if you do not sell out the expired items, you have to dump them and that is a loss to you. Guess who have been the losers in Bobby’s scam? THE PEOPLE OF GUYANA!