Kamwi responds to medicine shortage allegations

25 Sep 2013 10:50
By Sawi Lutibezi
WINDHOEK, 25 SEP (NAMPA) - The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi has called on all doctors in district hospitals to consult with their regional directors to see to it that out-of-stock medicines are purchased.
Kamwi made the call in an exclusive interview with Nampa on Tuesday during which he confirmed that his ministry has been experiencing some teething problems with its Central Medical Stores (CMS) in Windhoek as of April this year.
The minister gave this directive after recent reports in the media that the ministry’s pharmaceutical warehouse at the CMS in Windhoek has run out of some medicine stock.
Meanwhile, Vice-Chairperson of the National Council (NC) Margaret Mensah-Williams also alerted the NC during its session on Tuesday that she is in possession of a letter directed to the Directors of Health on the serious shortage of drugs and other pharmaceuticals experienced at many of the country’s hospitals.
Mensah-Williams had been complaining about the decentralising of government functions to regional level before she said what is happening at the Health Ministry is happening because the functions of the pharmacies to apply for medicine on time, and distribute it, has been centralised.
Kamwi however said on Tuesday there is no reason for panic, adding that his ministry is working around the clock to attend to the problem.
The minister explained to this agency that Government has medical stores which supply all 14 regions of the country, and each region has its own headquarters.
“All district hospitals have depots or regional pharmaceutical headquarters where they get their supplies from,” the Health Minister explained.
The northern regions such as Omusati, Oshikoto and Ohangwena Regions for instance get their supplies from the Oshakati regional pharmaceutical store, whilst the district hospitals in Kavango West and East, including the Katima Mulilo State Hospital, get their supplies from the Rundu regional pharmaceutical store.
Shedding more light on the issue, Kamwi further explained that Health Permanent Secretary (PS) Andrew Ndishishi has issued a circular to all regions which stated that if according to the Namibian Essential Medicines List (NEMLIST) a certain medicine is not in stock, an emergency procurement is granted through three quotations by any hospital, and funds are availed to that effect.
“All regional directors got this directive,” the minister noted.
The Namibian Essential Medicines List contains selected medicines suitable for the appropriate management of new, emerging and prevailing diseases in Namibia. NEMLIST prescribes the level of availability and use of essential medicines based on the skills levels of health workers.
“Another issue the ministry is faced with, is that we have been inundated by queries related to overspending and of going over pharmaceutical budget lines,” he pointed out.
Kamwi indicated that his ministry is one of those cited by the Auditor-General for being guilty of overspending, which is also related to the problems it is faced with now.
“Taking all of these issues into account the PS as the accounting officer with the support of his minister decided to put some measures into place,” he said.
Kamwi said he was one of the ministers summoned by the Chairperson of the National Assembly's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Usutuaije Maamberua last year to be warned about overspending.
“So we are now mindful and we are almost too careful,” he added.
The Health Ministry has also discovered that some unscrupulous staff members have been abusing the medicine stock, and some of the suspects have been arrested. The matter is still ongoing.
“We are now putting serious measures in place hence the teething problems which the nation is now seeing. However, to address the shortage of drugs and other pharmaceuticals, there is a tender currently running in the media, of which there are pending consignments to be delivered,” the minister said.
Kamwi noted that Namibia does not manufacture sufficient medicines, and the ministry therefore orders stock from countries as far as Austria, India, Germany and from neighbouring South Africa, and in some cases delays are experienced with these orders.
He urged doctors experiencing shortages should approach regional directors in order for them to be permitted to purchase needed drugs whilst they wait for orders to come through.
In an earlier Nampa report, Ndishishi stated that the ministry is implementing measures to curb over-expenditure and has recently changed its procurement system for acquiring “buy-out” medicines through the Central Medical Store (CMS).
In the past, hospitals procured their own emergency medicines, a practice that has been terminated by the ministry due to uncontrolled and high expenditures, as well as double procurement of medicines by hospitals and CMS.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Affairs of the Health Ministry raised the concern in its report handed over to President Hifikepunye Pohamba in April this year that the distribution of medicine and vaccines is generally inadequate at public health facilities.
“Occasional stock-outs at regional levels were reported mainly due to stock-outs at CMS in Windhoek, which is caused by tenderers (external suppliers) breaching tender conditions. The external suppliers either fail to supply, or just delay in supplying,” the report stated.
According to it the process involving buy-out medicines when a lack of stock is experienced at the CMS was reported to be cumbersome and lengthy.