Persistent shortages of drugs and medical supplies in Public Health System
National Assembly appropriated some $G 5.19 Billion for the procurement of "Drugs and Medical Supplies" in the 2015 National Budget. In 2016 the National Assembly again appropriated for the procurement of "Drugs (medicines) and Medical Supplies" a similar amount of some $G5 Billion. They are intended to ensure that "medicines and medical supplies" are procured and distributed to each and every hospital, health center and health post throughout the country. The Opposition PPP/C readily supported these appropriations in the National Assembly. These are huge sums.
THE MEDICINE & MEDICAL SUPPLIES SHORTAGES ARE BACK
However, the Public Health system is, unfortunately, facing severe shortages of even very basic medicines and medical supplies. The extent of the shortages is unprecedented. Everything seems in short supply and in short supply simultaneously at every imaginable health facility operated by the APNU+AFC Coalition Government. That is to say, from the main national referral hospital - the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) - to the smallest of Health Posts serving remote Amerindian Communities.
Even "low dose Aspirin tablets" are unavailable at the GPHC. As a matter of fact the shortages are so all-pervasive that older citizens are likening them to the shortages which obtained over 25 years ago in the dark days of the PNC Governments of Burnham and Hoyte.
These shortages of medicines and medical supplies had been by and large remedied by the PPP/C within the first two years following its victory at the historic 5th October, 1992, Elections. The medication shortages are now back. Like the GPL blackouts are now back. These medicines shortages have afflicted the Public Health system for almost the past two consecutive years.
That is to say, this unsatisfactory situation first emerged even in the first few months of the new APNU+AFC Coalition Government. The situation progressively deteriorated to the current deplorable state even as huge sums of tax-payers' money are arbitrarily given to a specially favoured supplier of medicines and medical supplies in breach of our national procurement laws. Public Health Minister, Volgar Lawrence, was recently forced to admit that she had approved the award of over G$600 Million to a favoured private company for the procurement of medicines and medical supplies without observing the legally required national public procurement procedures.
MASSIVE UNDERPERFORMANCE BY APNU+AFC MINISTERS
The APNU+AFC Coalition in general and the Minister and Ministry of Public Health in particular, are wallowing in massive underperformance. The Ministry of Public Health was forced to concede that more than $G 600 Million of the appropriated allocation for medicines and medical supplies were not utilized by the Ministry in 2015. Consequently, this sum was returned unspent to the National Treasury. This explains the shortages of medicines and medical supplies which have plagued the Public Health System since the very early days of the Coalition Administration. They are rooted in incompetent management and underperformance.
Several members of the Opposition have in the National Assembly during the examination of the Estimates of the annual National Budget called for urgent and determined action to remedy the chronic shortages of medicines and medical supplies in the Public Health System. Unfortunately, there appears to have been no response to this growing national crisis. The two Ministers of Public Health continue to wallow on underperformance. Meanwhile the Guyanese patients - and especially the poorer ones - suffer immensely. The total absence for the past two consecutive years of eye-drops for patients suffering from glaucoma means that in all probability they will go blind as their uncontrolled conditions progresses. This is a sad development. Especially so when we recall the excellent work the National Ophthalmology Hospital at Port Mourant had achieved under the PPP/C. At that prestigious institution over the said past two consecutive years all cataract surgery has ceased.
The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), the Nation's main tertiary care and referral hospital in 2016 enjoyed a total appropriation of some $G 7.2 Billion of which G$ 2.8 Billion were allocated for the purchase of "medicines and medical supplies". However, the shortages, never-the-less, have also plagued and continue to plague that institution.
The situation has long past crisis levels, thereby putting thousands upon thousands of people at risk while the Ministry of Public Health and the APNU+AFC Government continue to drag their feet and take no tangible emergency measures to correct it.
GUYANESE MUST DEMAND CHANGE
The Nation must demand that the Minister of Public Health get cracking and at least attempt to earn her Fat Cat salary by doing the following:
1. launch immediately an investigation to determine which medicines and medical supplies are unavailable and which are in insufficient quantities in the Public Health System, 2. report within one month to the National Assembly her findings including comprehensive details on the items unavailable or in short supply by individual health facility,
3. report to the National Assembly at the same time the reasons for the said shortages, 4. describe the measures which would have been taken, or are being taken, to rectify this grave crisis - including the projected timelines for an improvement in the delivery of the medicines and medical supplies to the various Public Health facilities,
5. report the additional budgetary burden that any emergency remedial actions would entail, and
6. report on the measures she has put in place to prevent such recurrence of shortages of medicines and medical supplies in the Public Health System.