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Public medical stores risk shortage of drugs and non-medicine consumables

Medical stores at public health facilities risk an imminent shortage of drugs owing to the depreciating cedi against the dollar and recent price hikes.

The Health Service Supply Chain Practitioners Association of Ghana says many bidders to public health facilities have returned procurement lists seeking upward adjustments of previously allocated prices of medical commodities.

National President, Stephen Sakyi, revealed that the worsening economic situation has truncated the supply of certain medical products in parts of the country.

“Suppliers that bought a tender from a facility and said they would supply some items to the facilities have written to all the facilities that there should be upward review of prices or they can’t supply. Some are not even responding and will not supply at all.

“This is causing a lot of stock outs in the system now. It has disrupted the supplying. These suppliers import mostly. So with the current depreciating cedi affecting the prices of the imported goods,” he said.

Public medical stores risk shortage of drugs and non-medicine consumables
Group photo of stakeholders in the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, Public Procurement Authority and the Health Service Supply Chain Practitioners Association of Ghana (HESSCPAG)

The Association at its 14th annual general meeting in Kumasi bemoaned challenges confronting medical stores at public health facilities.

Currently, most public health facilities have no allotted funds for procurement of non-medicine consumables including examination gloves, syringes, cotton wool, beds and others.

Stephen Sakyi is imploring the government to institute a policy to allocate permanent funds for such products as they are usually procured with funds from service charges under the National Health Insurance Scheme.

He is worried the situation may escalate if not addressed immediately, forcing patients to make personal purchases of such essential items.

“Monies allocated for these non-medicines have been lumped together with the service charge for NHIA. So, when NHIA reimburses, this money which is also used for administrative expenses, part of it is used to purchase these non-medicines.”

“But these funds are woefully adequate. We don’t want a situation where patients will be told to bring their own gloves to the hospital for treatment,” he said.

He further appealed to the government to better up their conditions of service as the professionals are currently the least paid personnel in the health sector.

“We as health service supply chain practitioners are among the least paid in the association. How do you expect someone who procures such millions of items for a facility to work efficiently if he is least paid? The government must look at how they can motivate the staff to deliver on the job.”

The general meeting was on the theme, ‘Sustaining Ghana’s Health Supply Chain with Improved Research and Data’.

Director of the Supplies, Stores and Drug Management Division of the Ghana Health Service, Araba Kudiabor, wants the government to immediately resolve the human resource deficit in the supply chain sector.

She believes technical support from the supply chain personnel would ensure effective running of the Ghana Electronic Procurement System.

“The perennial issue of inadequate supply chain professionals across all levels needs to be addressed as soon as possible to ensure the sustainability of these SC reforms. I wish the Ministry of Health engages the Ministry of Finance and gets us financial clearance for the recruitment of Supply Chain Professionals.”

“The Public Procurement Authority should also lend their voice to this call as the non-availability of this cadre of staff within the health sector is likely to affect the smooth implementation of the Ghana Electronic Procurement System popularly known as GHANEPS,” she said.

Despite these challenges confronting the association, Director of the Procurement Unit of the Ministry of Health, Dr Edward Agyekum, urged the professionals to support the ongoing framework contracting policy for efficient operationalisation in the health sector.

“The framework contracting policy is one the important initiatives within the supply chain sector. But the implementation of this initiative is bedeviled by some challenges mainly the high level of indebtedness due to the delay by the National Health Insurance resulting suppliers refusing to supply medicines under the framework to beneficiary institutions.”

“The ministry will kindly solicit the support of all HESSCPAG members at all levels across the country to support the successfully implementation of the framework,” Dr Agyekum assured.

The four-day meeting brought together stakeholders in the public procurement sector and the supply chain division of the health service.

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