In the wake of an embarrassing theft from the Diamond drug bond, the Ministry of Public Health says that more employees have resigned.
A statement from the Ministry of Public Health follows:
UPDATE ON THEFT AT MMU DIAMOND BOND
o MORE resignations by MOPH staffers follow Wednesday’s smashing by the Police of a suspected ‘pharma-theft’ ring at the Diamond bond.
o Two more MOPH employees attached to the MMU bond signaled verbally that they will not be returning to the MOPH according to an official Friday. “Just a handful turned up to work Friday” a senior official said Friday.
o The first worker resigned Wednesday “with immediate effect” after police grilled a number of them following the discovery of stolen items in the bond’s washroom and MOPH vehicle used to transport workers daily back to the city.
o However, their unexpected resignation will not hurt operations at the holding facility, according to an official. “Immediately, we are redirecting some manpower from other health facilities within Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) to cushion the loss of those employees.”
o The prime suspect who confessed to the theft “is still in custody” the MMU official confirmed.
o Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence (MP) currently on travel duties, has been informed about the ongoing events at the Diamond facility “but other functionaries that advise on pharmaceutical management are working feverishly to bring the situation to adequate balance” another official said.
o The workers have been under the microscope since January following Cabinet shakeup which saw Dr. George Norton, then Public Health Minister moved to the Social Cohesion Ministry and Lawrence, who then headed the Social Protection Ministry, taking his place.
o MMU executives had long suspected pilfering of drugs, medicines, pharmaceuticals and other supplies, and got a break this week when police hauled in the busload of MOPH employees for questioning following the discovery of items stashed away in a washroom in the Diamond facility and a search of the bus transporting them back to the city the same afternoon yielded more stolen supplies following a sting operation by MMU senior officials
o “The bond was systematically raided” by dishonest employees an official high up in the MOPH structure said in an interview Friday
o The official explained that after Lawrence assumed the helm of the Ministry “systemic changes and insider information” which brought pressure on the perennial pilfering practice helped MMU officials crack the ring.
o The Public Health Ministry has been dogged by procurement and other controversies especially claims of a shortage of essential drugs in outlying regions.
o However, MMU records of distribution show that in many cases the shortages are artificially created, and like the Diamond find, a result of theft by MOPH employees. Some of those involved in the ring of venal employees have markets in the private pharmaceutical sector where the stolen items are allegedly sold.
o The arrest of workers and the confession of a prime suspect “is a good thing for the Ministry” the senior MOPH officer emphasised Friday
o “Anything that intercept corrupt practices and allow smooth transaction of business at the country’s largest holding facility will allow for more and continuous presence of medicines and medical supplies in the various regions and various health facilities would be a gain for the health system and the country at large” the well-placed official said.