USAID yesterday wrapped up a drug supply management project at Diamond, on the East Bank, which enabled 4,500 persons to access anti-HIV medication and the US envoy appealed for continued investment to protect the gains from the initiative.
A site tour of the supply chain complex was facilitated by Minister in the Ministry of Public Health Dr Karen Cummings, following the close out reception of the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) Project. United States Ambassador Perry Holloway said that he hopes the lessons learnt from the SCMS for the HIV/AIDS drug programme will be replicated in Guyana’s overall management of its pharmaceutical procurement and supply.
“SCMS focused on saving lives by aggressively scaling up treatment access. At the end of 2015, 4,500 persons were treated with lifesaving antiretroviral drugs procured through the project. The project has contributed to improved treatment outcomes due to the uninterrupted and safe supply of medicines, resulting in over an 80% treatment retention rate…other key achievements include the establishment of a logistics and management Information System… [and] the National Procurement Oversight Committee within the Health Ministry…,” the US envoy said.
“I urge the Ministry of Public Health to continue to invest in these critical areas to ensure the sustainability of gains achieved over the past ten years and improve the health and lives of the people in Guyana…this is money well spent,” he added as he also reflected on his meetings with Minister of Finance Winston Jordan and Minister of Health Dr George Norton and trying to “consistently twist their arms” to invest more in the health sector.
Holloway emphasised that the physical structure of the facility was not sufficient and this was where the project came in to also revisit the organisational structure of the warehouse, define departments and sub-departments, roles and responsibilities and reporting and communication lines.
He said that the capacity development efforts resulted in the training of over 1000 staff members to improve management, planning, procurement and distribution of all pharmaceuticals in Guyana.
“Working with the ministry, the SCMS project developed computerised systems for requesting, tracking, storing and distributing all the Ministry of Public Health’s drugs and supplies. This system has the ability to track every product and transaction from the time the product is received at the warehouse to the time it is sent to a health facility, replacing the manual and labour intensive paper and Excel- based systems that existed before. This is not a static organisation,” the Ambassador stressed.
When the bond was commissioned in March of 2013, USAID, under the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration, then Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran said that it was hoped that the warehouse facility would help to reduce the amount of expired drugs being dumped each year here.
Ramsaran had pointed out that the 20,000 square meter facility, located at 1st Street, New Diamond Housing Scheme, would go a long way to address concerns that have been raised in a number of Auditor General’s reports.
Big losses were suffered by the Ministry of Health due to the expiration of large quantities of drugs, a 2010 report of the Auditor General had stated.
The Ministry of Health, it had said, continued to suffer losses due to expiration of large quantities of drugs. Noteworthy was the fact that destruction of expired drugs, valued at $39.955M, had occurred for the period under review, and that there was a large quantity of expired stock still on hand pending processing and destruction. This has been a longstanding problem at state warehouses.
But Deputy Director of Field Programme Support of SCMS Greg Miles, was pleased to report yesterday that only 0.5% of the commodities procured and stored under the project had been lost to expiry.
He boasted also of other significant accomplishments of the overall global programme. “By late 2015, more than 70% of all ARVs (anti-retrovirals) funded directly by PEPFAR were procured by SCMS. We have delivered $2.7B worth of life saving commodities to 67 countries. We have had over 83% client on time delivery. We have experienced only a .02% loss of commodities from theft. So with respect to this first comportment of our mission, the global supply chain, we’re proud to say that we have not only created the largest public health supply chain in the world but also one of the most effective and efficient,” Miles stated.
Notably, Guyana was singled out for setting the pace for the project.
“Guyana being our first country to have a field office, set the pace for a number of lessons learned that were eventually taken on as best practices by other countries,” Miles said to the thunderous applause of attendees, which included, representatives from a cross section of society, local and foreign organisations and project staff.
Meanwhile, Minister Cummings said that the packed Complex at Diamond is the reason that government needs additional storage facilities.
“We have come a long way since the commissioning of this bond and it has been serving its purpose in terms of storage but as you know there are times where we have several containers, sometimes four (at one time) so it can be packed to capacity,” Cummings said.
The remarks were a reference to the controversy that erupted earlier this year when it was announced that the government had struck a deal with businessman Larry Singh for the use of a bond in Charlestown. The bond was still to be finished at the time the announcement was made and Singh did not have experience with such bonds. Critics had asked why the government wasn’t utilising the Diamond facility to the max.
“We will need another bond as a measure, in terms of any eventuality; it is good to have another bond. As we speak there are drugs in there… As I said before we are trying to get or own bond as we have rented that one (Sussex Street), so there are times when we will need another bond,” the minister posited.