Procurement and distribution of medical supplies within the public health system is gaining keen attention. Newly appointed Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, has decided to have moves in this regard be placed high on her agenda of things to improve within the sector.
Her disclosure in this regard was amplified during a recent visit to the Chain Supplies Management Complex (SCMS) at Diamond, East Bank Demerara.
Speaking of her recent exposure Minister Lawrence said, “My visit to the Diamond Bond, which stores medical supplies, including medicine, has been very informative.”
She disclosed, “We recognise that there is great potential for this place and how we can work on the distribution process; how we can ensure that it is less manual, how we can create linkages and how we can decrease the turn-around in terms of request and delivery.”
According to the Public Health Minister, her visit was rather insightful since it gave her a better understanding of the Ministry’s capacity for storage “in terms of the receipt of goods that have been contracted to contractors and also in terms of how we are managing our data.”
“I believe those are issues which myself and the Junior Minister will chew on with some of our partners in terms of how we move forward,” said Minister Lawrence.
She continued, “We have some ideas but we want to see the whole thing and how it works. We will pull it together as we are working towards ensuring that we have some insight into the operations not only of procurement but receipt, distribution and it reaching the end users– our consumers.”
Minister Lawrence has over the past few weeks engaged in familiarisation activities as part of her efforts to gain a better understanding of the Public Health Ministry. It is the expectation of the Minister that “we will be able to conclude what we have set out to do in the last couple of weeks to ensure that we can address the procurement issue which is at the top of the list.”
All deliveries of pharmaceuticals and health products procured through the Procurement Unit of the Ministry are made to the Supply Chain Management Complex, which is the Public Health Ministry’s central medical stores.
According to former Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, the Ministry for the first time in January 2016, introduced a new Open Competitive Bidding process after many years of selected tendering with one supplier.
The Former Public Health Minister said that the major challenge faced with this new process was the evaluation process using the “line by line” approach, which was time consuming with over 20 bidders participating in the process, some for the very first time.
Last year, 812 items were procured, as opposed to 1,183 in 2015. This represented a 31.4 percent decrease. The Ministry in 2016 expended $1 B on the procurement of drugs and medical supplies.
Challenges, according to Minister Norton, included the availability of skilled and experienced staff to do high level procurement, delay in the bidding process and the availability of the evaluators.
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