As it aims to end its dependence on private storage space for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence announc-ed yesterday that her ministry has severed rental relations with the New GPC and by the end of this year will do the same with all others.
Lawrence stressed that the scale down will affect “all privately owned bonds” and it is hoped that the money saved in rentals can go towards the upgrade of the ministry’s storage and other related systems.
“This year we are focusing on us being able to stock our own medications… cutting back costs and investing in the sector itself this year,” the minister told Stabroek News last evening.
Further, she added, “We are looking at savings whereby we can do some more work on the GPHC (Georgetown Public Hospital) bond of itself in terms of extension so that we can come out of the other rental bond. It is a work in progress…Yes the drugs have been removed (from the New GPC bond) as we have had issues with private bonds.”
On Tuesday, the GPHC abruptly removed all pharmaceuticals and medical supplies from the New GPC bond at Industrial Site, Ruimveldt without clearing its over $50M debt, a move that has left the company perplexed.
“They just showed up and told us they are removing all the drugs they have here. It was everything they had and none of the drugs collected were expired,” a representative of New GPC told this newspaper.
“The (GPHC) CEO, Allan Johnson, was there. He said he came to see everything because when the media asks him he has to answer,” the source added.
The medical supplies were moved to the GPHC’s Kingston bond which is located in the Materials Management Unit of the Ministry’s complex.
The GPHC is also using the lower flat of a Sussex Street, Charlestown bond which has been the subject of controversy. Stabroek News had visited that the Sussex Street location this year and the medications were stored in an ad hoc manner, with boxes not labelled. No one was present at the time and it was unclear how the corporation kept records of its stock.
The Ministry of Public Health had distanced itself from the storage mechanism and inventory system used saying that because the GPHC was a semi-autonomous body it had its own systems.
However, if requested, the Ministry of Public Health said, it would assist.
Lawrence reiterated this yesterday while she informed that her ministry will be working with the GPHC to enhance its storage capabilities and assured that if the GPHC left a debt to New GPC she was sure it would be honoured.
It is anticipated that additional storage space will be had by the end of this year, as a contract for an extension to the Ministry’s Diamond, East Bank Demerara bond will be opened next week and the Kingston bond is to be rehabilitated.
Lawrence said that the ministry recently concluded the destruction of a large stock of expired drugs and as a result a large amount of space has been freed up. As such medical supplies were moved from the New GPC bond to those facilities.
Lawrence also explained that she anticipates additional storage space as a contract for an extension to the Diamond bond will be opened next week and there is planned rehabilitation of the Kingston bond.
“We will have the extension at Diamond… and remedial works to the Kingston Bond where they will have more capacity. The Diamond Bond extension, that tender will be opening next week and we will have the repair works at the Kingston to bond follow,” she said.
She said that her primary concern was access to medication by persons needing it and some of the monies to bring make that possible can come from the savings of rental and an efficient storage and inventory system.
“It was a bit chaotic, not on stream. You didn’t have a first in, first out system being used and so and it has incurred a lot of costs to us taxpayers. I will make a statement on that so that people could understand where a lot of our money has gone. We could have built three bonds with that money so we have to stop that.
“Having had experience in the social arena I know the feelings of the people out there and my greatest objective would be that I remove all the hindrances that is stopping the poor people from getting the best healthcare service. I want to ensure that granny gets her medication and she don’t have to take her pension and buy it. Also, I want to ensure that a mother don’t have to choose between the rent and buying medication for her children…,” she added.
With experience in seeing firsthand how computerized and digital storage and inventory systems work abroad, the Minister of Public Health says she will endeavor to have similar systems in place here.
Employing and training persons to use these systems would also be her agenda for next year.
She explained, “We have to employ the right people ensure they are trained and so forth. Store keeping is not just about anybody coming off the road. You have to do it in a systematic way. Next year we want to look at how we can improve the efficiency of the bonds bringing in new equipment….We need to get with it but we have to save the money. We have to get the money.
“I came into that ministry with a mandate. We have changed the system, in terms of how the drugs are going out to the various institutions. We try to speed up that whole process, so it is no longer a long delay within the warehousing. We are trying to implement the processes that were done by USAID and some other donor agencies, prior to my taking over. These are things that were tailor made for Guyana and I believe that once we can get those things done we can digitalize the system, get rid of all the expired goods in Guyana, and so on we will see a faster tracking,” she added.