It is with great concern for the interest of the public that I write on the destruction of the health supply chain system that was set up to ensure medicines and supplies reach our health facilities to provide quality healthcare.
Prior to 2015, the management of drugs and supplies were at a standard that was comparative to the best public systems in the world and bested many others. We had countries in South America that wanted to come and learn from us. We had 100% availability of critical drugs in all ten regions 365 days a year, we had 90% of all essential medicines available and over 85% of non-essentials available.
During this time, the PPP/C was aggressively chastised by Volda Lawrence, the then-Head of the PAC, for not doing enough to manage our supply of medicines. Now, Volda is in the driver seat and before you know it, she crashed the system faster than you can say “save it”.
As I write this letter, there are no HIV medications in the system and countless other drugs. The MoPH does not know its stock levels and their consumption forecast. Medicines and supplies are stored in bottom houses in unsanitary conditions, they are paying 1700% more for drugs in the regions and patients cannot get basic drugs, such as diabetic pills.
Now let’s break down a series of events that brought us to this situation. Firstly, they broke the procurement laws and gave substantial contracts to foreign companies and other shell companies that are not meeting their obligations, this was done to simply spite our locally established companies for political reasons at the expense of the people.
Second, they decentralised the procurement of drugs to the regions and transferred this skill set to unskilled people, like the RHO in Region 6 who purchased drugs for $256 that should have cost us $13. This led to politician-backed shell companies getting drug contracts to supply medicines with little or no oversight on the efficacy that puts the patients at risk of consuming dangerous medicines. This action points closer to corruption even if it means putting lives at risk.
Third, they overpaid exorbitant sums, such as the case of $256 million to store condoms and used beds in a bottom house in Sussex Street. The items in the bottom house are worth less than the rent. Additionally, this extreme sum of tax dollars could have supplied all of Guyana’s lifesaving drugs for at least four months or it could have extended the warehouse space at Diamond by 30%. They also stored medicines in hotel rooms at Ocean View Hotel and expect patients to consume medicines stored in such unsanitary spaces. There are also unverified reports of a third bottom house storing medicines in Carmichael Street under a private company name.
Ironically, the only place that drugs are being stored to acceptable standards for the Ministry is at the very same company they are maliciously depriving of doing business with, but this company still holds strong to do the right thing in the face of evil and vindictive acts.
Fourth, the Ministry has millions upon millions of dollars in expired drugs wasted due to accepting medicines with as low as three months shelf life and paying the full contract sum for these items. The Ministry does not know how many expired drugs are in the system and some have speculated that they amount to well over $100 million in losses. One of the reasons why the Ministry is storing drugs in unsanitary environments is because the expired drugs are taking up space at the Government warehouse.
Fifth, there is a complete breakdown in inventory management and forecasting of consumption that makes it impossible for the Ministry to plan and purchase the right number of drugs and supplies. This is a result of a breakdown in networking of information flow of data and communication between the regions and the central body.
From the above issues, it would be safe to conclude that lives are being severely affected or deaths occurring from the poor management of our medicines supply chain. It is sure to say that if this kind of poor practice continues after March 2, we will be heading to a complete collapse of a supply chain that can take the lives of countless patients.
This is a concern for all Guyanese to act and stop this craziness before you become the victim of corruption and incompetence.
Certified supply chain professional