Per­sis­tent short­ages of drugs and med­i­cal sup­plies in Public Health Sys­tem

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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.

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