The decision to have central government procure drugs, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals on behalf of the regions was expected to reap financial benefits.
Acting Regional Health Officer for Region Two, Pomeroon-Supenaam, Dr. Afarah Khan, gave a different account when she appeared before the Public Accounts Commission (PAC) last Monday
She outlined that the region was allocated $176M to procure drugs in 2016. Eventually, an order was made that the region returns $164M for the drugs to be purchased centrally.
Dr. Khan shared that the region received a total procurement of drugs and a bill to the tune of $405.3M. Of that amount, $142.7M was for medical supplies; pharmaceutical supplies, $262.2M and $409,000 for laboratory supplies.
It was explained that the $176M was derived as a result of the region quantifying its needs and made a request that was approved by the National Assembly. The only involvement of the Ministry of Health was to help the region with central procurement through economy of scales.
PAC member and PPP Member of Parliament, Juan Edghill, questioned Khan on whether the region received $164M worth of medical supplies in keeping with the required needs as prepared by the region. Edghill also wanted to know where the balance of the money was found.
Dr. Khan could not say where the additional monies came from. She also noted that she did not check the market value of the prices as against the ones prepared by the region when it submitted its request.
Asked if the region received the required quantities, Dr. Khan replied not in all cases. She also agreed with Edghill that it cost more, but the region received fewer drugs.
“Do we have inflation of prices with these economies of scale purchasing?” Edghill questioned.
Dr. Khan noted that she encountered instances where they did not have adequate supplies of specific items that were initially budgeted at $176M.
She also stated that had the region bought its supplies there probably would not have been a shortage.
PAC member and Coalition Member of Parliament, Charrandass Persaud, said the matter is a delicate issue. He shared personal experiences where nurses have complained of the lack of basic medication.
Dr. Khan was asked how the region handles the shortage of drugs.
“Mr. Chair, we work with what we have and what we will do is write prescriptions for the patient to purchase. Whether they purchase or not, that we will not be able to answer,” Dr. Khan noted.
In 2017, the budgeted amount for the procurement of drugs by the Region was $186M while for this year, $204M is budgeted.
Edghill questioned whether the inflated cost is due to ‘dumping’ of free supplies received by the Material Management Unit (MMU) through donations.
“I want to find out if we are dumping and inflating bills to justify the expenditure. I am serious about it because the MMU also receives donations and if the MMU is receiving donations and if the MMU is dumping and putting a value to the dump we at the PAC need to know,” Edghill declared.
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