Bogus receipts, fabrication of records; Health Minister blames conspiracy among staff and suppliers for Drug Shortage

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Recently the Ministry of Public Health has been addressing many reported cases of drug Shortage at individual health institutions. During this time, several things came to light including the sale of the drugs to private pharmacies by the staff of the Ministry; a matter which was dealt with by the police.

In a statement today (Saturday, March 11, 2017), Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence blamed a conspiracy among drug suppliers and ministry staff for the crisis in the sector at the time she was appointed. Lawrence was relocated to manage the sector earlier this year.

When she moved from Social Protection to Public Health, Lawrence said she was “greeted with the news of a shortage of drugs in the system,” and immediately held talks with Material Management Unit (MMU) staff of the Ministry of Public health. She also visited several regional hospitals and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

Lawrence said three months after, she is still uncovering “a combination of  skulduggery, collusion, delinquency, deliberate breaching of established sector protocol by Public Health staff, manipulation of the system by importers with the support of employees and fabrication of records including evidence of bogus receipts.”

“The current drug shortage was a ploy manufactured by some unprincipled importers and crooked Public Health staff to enrich themselves,” Lawrence said.

She pointed to the widespread practice among some suppliers, to indicate their inability to supply the items for which they received payment when the delivery date is nearing.

Others, she said provided a few of the items then refuse to provide the remainder, blaming unexpected changes in the global market prices.

The Ministry said these excuses are made even though the items are available on the local market at very steep prices from the same suppliers and their pharmaceutical clients. This has caused the ministry to purchase drugs at high prices.

“This has created the supply gaps creating acute shortage especially in the outlying Regions,” Lawrence said.

Turning her attention to the recent reports of a breach in the procedure for the supply of drugs to the GPHC, the Minister said: “it is misinformation.”

The minister said she was forced to influence the decision of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), for ANSA McAL to supply drugs and pharmaceuticals to the tune of some G$605M. However, she said the tender process was never breached.

The Trinidad-based firm was among four companies, including New GPC, Health 2000 and Chirosyn Discovery from which these emergency supplies were procured. The Minister said other companies were not a part of this process due to ongoing investigations into their late/or non-delivery of critical drugs during 2016, which they were contracted to procure for GPHC. Some of these pharmaceuticals were overdue by as much as six (6) months, which exacerbated the drugs shortage at the hospital.

“The Trinidad companies is one of only two companies in Guyana, that is able to provide the cold chain storage necessary to maintain the integrity of a wide range of pharmaceuticals, which are critical in the health care sector, in Guyana,” Lawrence said.

ANSA Mc AL not only airfreighted the drugs (this helped spike the cost to import the items) for the public health sector, but also donated four refrigerators to GPHC to store the emergency supplies at the internationally acceptable temperature of 20 to 80C.

The Public Health system needs an urgent and massive overhaul, the minister said. She went on to point out that several procurement officials are not only unqualified for the job, but also unwilling to follow protocols and processes.

The Pan American Health Organisation and World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO is helping the ministry to shape policy directions, in the areas of procurement, distribution, storage and managing consumption levels of pharmaceuticals at the GPHC.

The Minister hosted her first meeting yesterday (Friday, March 10, 2017) with several delinquent suppliers at her Brickdam, Georgetown office.

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