by Gary Eleazar
The Ministry of Public Health has launched a full scale investigation into the recent ‘drug crisis’ at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) that led to that entity having to procure in excess of half a billion dollars in drugs from pre-selected suppliers as a result of a shortage of drugs at the entity.
This was confirmed by Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence, who today (March 20, 2017) met with media operatives in the studio’s of the National Communications Network (NCN) to clear the air, but was unable to inform media operatives as to precisely how GPHC ended up with its short list of suppliers which included Trinidadian conglomerate Ansa McAl and local drugs manufacturer New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation.
The Minister has written to the GPHC Board instructing that a probe be undertaken into the various aspects of the imbroglio including the procurement processes used.
On the matter of the four ‘shortlisted’ suppliers, the Minister said she was unable to say if the four had been pre-qualified since she was only briefed that they had been shortlisted, save to say that the companies under investigations for failing to meet contractual obligations had been deliberately excluded from the process.
She said this obtained since the GPHC had been experiencing problems with suppliers which led to the crisis at the Hospital.
Meeting with media operatives for an engagement which was Broadcast Live, Minister Lawrence explained the sequence of events that led to Ansa McAl being selected to supply some $605M in drugs that were in short supply at GPHC.
She told media operatives that in February last, she summoned a meeting with the directors, senior management and Chief Executive Officer of GPHC in enquire into the “crisis in terms of drugs.”
Lawrence said it was at this stage, she learnt that GPHC was at the time in short supply of in excess of 200 different types of drugs.
According to Lawrence, there were several reasons proffered for the shortfall in the drugs in stock and while some of the suppliers did manage to make good on their obligation, others failed in this regard. This, she said, led in part to GPHC finding itself in a position where there was a significant gap in the drugs required and a decision was taken to remedy the situation.
Lawrence told media operatives that such a dire situation it was that the Hospital had in fact resorted to purchasing supplies on a needs basis from private institutions—a situation that led to more questions than answers since suppliers appeared to be able to their contractual obligations to private institutions.
Explaining her intervention into the matter, Minister Lawrence told members of the media that she initially ordered a physical stock count of the drugs in stock which revealed that 287 different types of drugs were in fact exhausted.
The Minster said utilizing the regular procurement method mean the Hospital would have had to have waited for as much as six months in order to receive any supplies ordered.
According to Lawrence, it was this situation that led to decision to have the drugs be sourced on an emergency basis leading the decision to call in the four shortlisted suppliers to make bids for the supply of the unavailable drugs.
Meanwhile as it relates to Ansa McAl contract to supply $605M in drugs—a decision authorized by GPHC’ management in the absence of a functioning tender board—Lawrence told media operatives that upon being told of the contract she immediately inquired.
She told media operatives that the GPHC Chief Executive informed her that the two week shipping timeframe along with Ansa McAl’s handling of the cold storage chain were among the considerations that saw the company being approved for the $605M contract.
While being unable to confirm if payments have already been made to Ansa McAl, the Minister did confirm that some of the supplies have already been delivered.