The Ministry of Public Health yesterday said an employee of its Materials Management Unit (MMU) has confessed to stealing an estimated $100,000 in medical supplies from its flagship Diamond bond, while another has resigned with immediate effect.
The announcement came after the arrest of a total of 15 workers, who have since been released on station bail, in connection with a theft.
On Wednesday, police, acting on information, intercepted a bus with the stolen items at the Diamond facility.
In a brief statement issued yesterday, the Ministry of Public Health said none of the employees who were initially taken into custody and later released had reported for duty. It quoted an unnamed MMU official as saying that the workers were on strike. The same official was also said to have confirmed that a female MMU worker, who was among the 15 arrested, had resigned “with immediate effect.”
A male employee, the statement noted, has admitted to the crime.
According to the ministry, among the stolen supplies were Clozole, an anti-fungal cream used for yeast infections; On Call Plus, which is used mainly by diabetics to test blood sugar; Chlorophane, a cough medicine, and Ferrovite, a multivitamin product.
All of the stolen items have been conservatively valued at US$500 or $100,000, it added.
In March, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence said after being alerted to a drug shortage, she immediately held talks with MMU staff and also visited several regional hospitals, among other things, to correct the problem.
However, the ministry had said then she was still uncovering “a combination of skullduggery, 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.”
Lawrence was quoted as saying that the situation is so dire that police had been called in to deal with staff who are selling drugs to private pharmacies.
Last Monday, Lawrence had responded to questions in the National Assembly by members of the opposition relating to the theft of supplies by employees of the Ministry of Health, and specifically those from the MMU and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Alluding to the theft of drugs by an employee of the MMU, Lawrence noted that said employee was arrested and placed on bail by the police after being found with vials of insulin in his possession
And though he never reported for duty thereafter, the matter is still engaging the attention of the police and the Ministry of Public Health has since put measures in place to stop pilfering, she said.
In the case of a pharmacist and his wife, who were arrested after they allegedly tampered with the drugs ledger as well as failure on the part of the pharmacist to account for several ampoules of Pethidine, Codeine and Morphine in his possession, the minister said the couple were arrested and the matter is still engaging the attention of the police.
Similarly, a regional pharmacist attached to the New Amsterdam Hospital was charged and placed on $100,000 bail but never interdicted from duty. The pharmacist has since proceeded on leave to allow for an investigation to take place.
Meanwhile, at Suddie Hospital, a pharmacist, pharmacy assistant and the driver of the ambulance attached to the facility were arrested after a visit conducted by a ministerial task force revealed that some drugs never arrived at the hospital.
In addition to this, the pharmacist could not give account for several dangerous drugs and had not been making any entries in his Dangerous Drugs Ledger since 2015. This matter is still engaging the attention of the police, Lawrence reported.