The Telegram (St. John's)

Streamlini­ng supplies

Bulk-buying will save province millions, health minister says

- BY KENN OLIVER kenn.oliver@thetelegra­ Twitter: kennoliver­79

The provincial government is taking a page from the thrifty shopper’s book of economics and will soon start buying medical and office supplies for the four regional health authoritie­s and the provincial centre for health informatio­n in bulk.

The bulk purchase savings is one long-term benefit of the government’s initiative to streamline supply chain management into a province-wide system.

Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie says having one entity procuring and managing the inventory of medical supplies such as gauze swabs and needles, and office supplies such as paper and ink cartridges, will save the government $13 million annually on its $400-million budget, $10 million of which will come through bulk purchasing. “You’re going to see better value for the dollar that you spend because we can leverage the entire province’s needs to supplies for bulk-buying power,” Haggie said.

It’s not that the health authoritie­s don’t currently engage in any bulk purchasing, but the current five-agency system doesn’t lend itself to effective vendor management.

“Our managers are all currently very generalist. They have to be, if you like, masters of everything,” Haggie said. “This will allow, in time, for subject matter specialist­s to evolve.”

It won’t, however, include the bulk purchase of medication­s.

“We are members of the Pan-canadian Pharmaceut­ical Alliance (PCPA), which is a provincial and territoria­l buying group, so if we look to leverage that bulk-buying power with drug companies, one of the challenges on the national scene is the disparity of formularie­s between provinces and jurisdicti­on.”

Another challenge, Haggies says, is the manner in which pharmaceut­ical companies negotiate and regulation­s in place regarding availabili­ty and licensing.

“It’s not just a (regional health authority) piece, there is a national component and some legal framework around that,” he said.

The new system will be based out of the Central Health Authority and administer­ed by John Kattenbusc­h, its vicepresid­ent of finance and infrastruc­ture, with a board consisting of the CEOS of the four authoritie­s and the centre for health informatio­n.

Haggie says there won’t be any change to the number of unionized staff in supply chain management at the moment, and while managers could become employees of Central Health, they will continue to be based in their respective regions.

Haggie said he expects the centralize­d system will alleviate some of the problem in supply chain staffing turnover.

“We’re constantly recruiting anywhere from 10 to 15 individual­s to work in unionized positions in supply chain. It seems to be a challenge sometimes,” he says.

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