GPHC also made emergency purchase of 500 body bags

Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence’s fast-tracking of emergency drugs for the Georgetown Public Hospital saw not only the lion’s share of $605m going to ANSA McAl but purchases of the same drugs at varying prices from several of the companies.

And with allegations about the procurement process at the GPHC and calls being made for government to investigate the $605M fast-tracked acquisition, questions are also being raised over the single-sourcing, as an emergency, of 500 body bags in January of this year.

According to documents seen by Stabroek News, ANSA McAl also received a $10,860,000 contract to supply 30, 600 mg injections of Trastuzumab, a cancer treatment drug, under the Genentech and Roche brand Herceptin, in late January of this year. Each unit of the Herceptin drug was pegged at $362,000. The GPHC had noted that the drug was out of stock and it was urgently needed.

While attention has been focused on the $605M deal with Trinidad conglomerate ANSA McAl three other purchases were made from New GPC, Health 2000 and Chirosyn Discovery. Lawrence has justified the purchases saying the decision she made was critical to the health sector as there was a shortage of drugs and that ANSA McAl was not the only company that received a contract.

Among the supplies covered by ANSA’s contract are $35M in eye drops and ointments, $20M plus in creams, ointments and lotions and $6M in suppositories and pessaries. The list also includes the purchase of 1.8M paracetamol tablets and 270,000 Ibuprofen tablets, pegged at a total of $8.2M.

The contract has come in for severe criticism with the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), individuals and agencies, such as Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc and the Guyana Trades Union Congress, urging that government review it.

From the documents seen by this newspaper, the New GPC received a $20M contract while Chirosyn Discovery was granted merely $2.1M. It is unclear what the amount to Health 2000 was. While Health 2000 has admitted that they were also a part of the contracted companies, its Manager Malika Persaud explained that they preferred to not make the amount received public. As part of the investigation of the controversial award, Stabroek News contacted all four companies identified by Minister Lawrence.

While ANSA McAL and Health 2000 immediately responded, the New GPC’s Company Secretary, Zulficar Ally, since last week requested that the questions be forwarded by email and promised to reply. Up to press time, he had not done so despite numerous calls to his mobile and office numbers.

But like the correspondence that was sent to Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham, for approval of the monies for the supplies for ANSA McAl, the same was done for Chirosyn and New GPC stating that it was for emergency purchases.

“The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is requesting approval from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board to procure Emergency Medical Supplies. These emergency supplies were authorized by the Hon.Volda Lawrence…grateful for your approval; to the New GPC for the sum of twenty million, eight hundred and eighty thousand, six hundred and ten dollars ($20,888,610) as per attached quotation,” the letter states.

Also, similar to ANSA McAl’s quotation, both Chirosyn and New GPC provided theirs, which was attached to the letter sent by GPHC to Wickham. Noted on the invoices were the same drugs at varying costs.

The total amounts for the emergency supply of pharmaceuticals to the GPHC shows that ANSA McAl is set to receive $605,962,200, the New GPC $20,888,610 and Chirosyn Discovery Technologies $2,138,925.

The table below shows a comparison among the like drugs purchased by the three companies.

The New GPC has said that it has already delivered its quota of drugs while Lawrence has said that not only has ANSA McAl delivered its supplies but it made a donation of refrigerators to store those drugs which required refrigerating.

Former Chairman of the GPHC Board Dr Carl Max Hanoman last week said that there has been a longstanding shortage of drugs at the GPHC that was created by suppliers in collusion with persons at the hospital who “fixed” the transactions. He said with the reported shortages, certain companies would be called in to supply emergency items.

Hanoman told Stabroek News that it was here the system gets manipulated because the companies usually mark up their prices. “I said there was a shortage and (former Minister of Public Health Dr George) Norton said there was not. I said not only shortages there was terrible mismanagement; he did not like it. He wanted you to say what he wanted you to say but not me. The stuff is purchased through line items not tender…they all know what it is…it is a racket. Ask about the kidney fluids, for the dialysis and how much they paid for it. That is why the tenders were not passed when I was there. It is a racket. The whole hospital is a racket and they are bleeding the nation,” a distressed Hanoman stated.

Stabroek News has reached out to Chairman of the GPHC Board Allan Johnson on many occasions but he has refused comment to this newspaper.

‘Body bag emergency’

Meanwhile, observers have noted the emergency purchase of 500 body bags for the GPHC that was awarded to the Joy-Med International Company in February of this year.

On the 31st January this year, Johnson wrote to the NPTAB Chairman requesting approval for 500 adult sized body bags. Johnson had said that the hospital was “currently without body bags” and that the company could procure the requested amount within 48 hours.

He quoted excerpts of the Procurement Act relating to single- sourcing in his request. “Sole sourcing can be activated under Section 28 (a) – which states that “the procuring entity may engage in single-source procurement when the goods or construction are available only from a particular supplier or contractor, or a particular supplier or contractor has the exclusive rights with respect to the goods or construction, and no reasonable alternative or substitute exists…grateful for your approval to Joy-Med International for the sum of three million, six hundred and twelve thousand dollars ($3,612,000),” Johnson wrote.

On the 27th of February, of the same year, Wickham replied to the request granting the approval (NPTA Ref Number 466/2017/46.) He carbon-copied the letter to the Accountant General and the Auditor General.

It is unclear why body bags would have been needed on an emergency basis if there was regular ordering of the item.

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