Drug procurement top of the agenda

-Lawrence says in response to concern about diabetic drugs shortage

Drug procurement remains at the forefront of her agenda says Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence.

She was at the time responding to claims made by Opposition Member of Parliament, Juan Edghill that insulin was not available for diabetic children at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and other public hospitals.

“Bishop Edghill has been writing about a lot of things. But as I have said before, procurement has been my number one issue, and I am addressing that both in terms of the shortages and also of the system,” the Minister said, in response to a question from this newspaper.

Edghill in a letter published in last Saturday’s edition of the Stabroek News said that the Office of the Leader of the Opposition was informed of an incident, where two diabetic children from Lima Sands on the Essequibo Coast reportedly visited the GPHC for treatment but were told that there was no insulin available.

“The shortage of drugs and medical supplies is a matter of life and death and not just a political problem as some may want to believe. Yesterday, we at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition were confronted with this reality in a very direct way: two children, juvenile diabetics (type 1 diabetics who have been on insulin all their life and who will always be on insulin), travelled from Lima Sands, Essequibo Coast with their mother to the GPHC only to be told that no insulin is available,” he penned.

Having heard this, Edghill said, the mother visited the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and requested that their case be highlighted. While there, the mother of the two children related that staff of the GPHC had informed her that insulin would be available in another four weeks, when they were expected to make their next hospital visit.

“We sought to verify through different sources the state of affairs, and we have concrete evidence to substantiate this claim. There was no insulin in the pharmacy or at the hospital’s bond. We can further confirm that there was no insulin at the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, the West Demerara Regional Hospital or any of the hospitals in the county of Berbice,” he further stated in his letter.

Thankfully, according to Edghill, public spirited citizens who were present at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition at that time, financially supported the purchase of this essential drug for the children, going the extra mile by searching various private pharmacies in Georgetown to make the purchase.

Nonetheless, he questioned the fate of other patients who suffer from diabetes which requires a daily supply of insulin and other medications, saying that the Ministry should, “stop making excuses, finding scapegoats and blaming their predecessors and other junior staff for this prevailing incompetence.”

Alluding to the heavily criticized $605 million purchase of drugs and medical supplies made for the GPHC, for which ANSA McAl was awarded a contract without the proper procurement process, Edghill questioned, in light of such, how come a vital drug like 70/30 insulin to ensure the health of citizens, is not available at the foremost health institution in Guyana.

“Penalizing staff, such as sending them on administrative leave, police investigations for theft and a robust public relations stunt are insufficient actions that will not deflect the nation’s attention away from the major drug shortage that exists in our health care system,” the Member of Parliament said.

“It is our sincere hope that by highlighting the plight of the family, action will be taken to ensure that the nation gets value for money. Answers are urgently needed,” he said.