Jan 27, 2016 News
…PAC member says state of affairs reflects “gross misconduct and mismanagement”
The shortage of drugs and other pharmaceuticals at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) was a worrying issue which was raised in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday.
The PAC is tasked with examining the audited accounts, as presented in the Auditor General’s Report, showing the appropriation of sums granted by the National Assembly to meet public expenditure and such other accounts laid before the Assembly. It is also entrusted with the responsibility to exercise general supervision over the functioning of the Auditor General in accordance with the Rules, Policies and Procedures Manual and any other law; and nominate members of the Public Procurement Commission for approval by the National Assembly and, thereafter, the appointment by the President.
It was noted that drugs such as aspirin, B-Complex and Paracetamol are not available at the hospital. The PAC was made aware of this as GPHC officials were grilled over certain financial irregularities at the entity as listed in the Auditor General’s report. The officials asserted that to address the issue of the shortage of drugs, it is currently awaiting the approval of Cabinet for contracts to secure drugs which are also necessary for certain critical operations.
Kaieteur News understands that in some cases, medical supplies which were not needed by the hospital were ordered. One case involved the procurement of over $3M worth in tablets which were not needed while another incident saw drugs with a short shelf life being purchased. The officials also brought to light the fact that suppliers had stopped honouring requests for more drugs as the institution owed some $500M for drugs which were already ordered.
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, GPHC CEO, Alan Johnson said that the entity has already made efforts towards dealing with the matter and meetings were already held with the suppliers. He said that a list of all the items needed by the Hospital were submitted to New GPC, one of its main suppliers, and it is hoped that they will be delivered as soon as possible and the matter of the shortage of drugs will be put to rest.
However, PAC Member Jermaine Figueira, who was very vocal on the matter on Monday, said that he found the state of affairs at the Hospital to be most unfortunate and disappointing. He said that he is not satisfied with some of the reasons which were supplied by the officials as it relates to the drug shortage.
Figueira said, “I believe the situation that exists is one which is most regrettable. I am of the view that the reasons provided by the representatives of the Ministry of Health and GPHC are unsatisfactory. Those representatives have a very important mandate to the government and more over the Guyanese people to be more prudent and efficient in executing their duties. I was flabbergasted by the revelations of those officials and I would have to say that it reflects gross misconduct and mismanagement by the entity.”
The Parliamentarian insisted that the preservation of a healthy and safe population is one that is aided by those two important bodies. He said that the onus is upon those entities to be more responsible and accountable in carrying out their duties.
A meeting was held yesterday with officials of the Ministry of Health and the Georgetown Public Hospital with Finance Secretary Hector Butts, to address the matter. He however declined to comment on the findings and resolutions of that meeting when contacted by this newspaper last evening.
When he served as the Shadow Minister of Health for A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Dr. George Norton was strongly opposed to the shortage of drugs under the previous regime citing it in several cases to be “gross incompetence.” He believed that the root of the problem was sole sourcing.
When he was actually appointed to the post of Minister of Public Health, Norton firmly told members of the National Assembly that sole sourcing—the problem he had said was the cause of the drug shortage—was coming to an end.
He noted that for over a decade, only one company enjoyed the lion’s share of the contracts for drugs and pharmaceuticals in Guyana under the previous administration. That entity was none other than New GPC. He said that gone are the days when New GPC enjoyed that monopoly.
The Minister had informed fellow parliamentarians that 18 other companies were recommended by the Guyana Pharmaceutical Association to participate in what will now be a fair and transparent process of tendering for drug contracts.
Norton had said that the Ministry of Health will be committed to ensuring that the access the Guyanese population has to medication and medical supplies is improved.
During his budget presentation last year, the Member of Parliament revealed that New GPC had a contract from the PPPC Government to receive 100 percent payment up front – before delivery.
Norton had said that on more than one occasion, the company received monies for medication it never supplied. He said that this can be substantiated in the Auditor General’s Reports over the years.
“Yet they (the previous administration) continued with the monopoly. Gone are such days. We will do everything possible to put an end to the hundreds of millions of dollars of the poor Guyanese tax payers’ money that is wasted away in the form of expired drugs,” added the Health Minister.
It appears however that the new and transparent process Norton had embarked on to banish sole sourcing was not enough to leave the issue of shortage of drugs in the past for good.
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