February 25, 2018

The poor and middle class will feel the pain of drug shortages

Dear Editor,

During the period 2007 to the end of 2011 the management of Drugs and Supplies saw real and credible success and it was because we had the systems and leadership focus that were geared towards improving the supply and delivery of medicines and supplies to all ten Regions in Guyana.

Under the guidance of Minister Ramsammy, we worked closely with our partners to ensure that we build a supply chain system that would ensure 100 per cent availability of vital medicines and 90 per cent of all other supplies in every health facility nationwide. And this was done using a fraction of the current budgeted money for 2017.

Our first step was to ensure the proper training and retention of key personnel; we built strong working relationships with our suppliers and implemented a robust procurement planning strategy that was based on a number of factors that included Guyana’s geographic location, data availability and effective forecasting. But most importantly, everyone at the MMU had a passion and the will to make sure our country is served.

In 2010 we implemented the first ever Public Prequalification system to short-list eligible suppliers for medicines and supplies, and this remained the standard until now. However, a lack of appreciation and understanding for all the hard work done, it was instead forgotten and fell to the wayside. As stated in the BoI it is clear the MMU is in a state of crisis.

We also had a functioning efficacy laboratory for testing the quality of medicines before accepting them from suppliers, and we rejected any medication that was delivered with less than six months shelf life remaining.

There was a donation policy that restricted NGOs and individuals from making Guyana a dumping ground for expired products and it was 100 per cent in effect.

With support from our international partners, we built the pharmaceutical bond at Diamond with the aim of making it a distribution centre and a centre of excellence for not only the Caribbean, but all of South and Latin America. In 2010 we were the envy of the South American countries for having the best distribution system of which countries like Bolivia and Peru were willing to come and learn from us.

Regardless of the unfair criticism and unjust politicking, we pushed on to make sure poor patients are not out of drugs when they need it the most. And I take great pride in having the opportunity to lead the Management of Drug Supply during this period.

Now we have a national crisis on our hands and we must take a minute to truly understand the severity of this problem; it is the poor and middle class that will feel the pain of drug shortages and this will have unforgiving ripple effects on other aspects of these poor families’ economic situations.

I believe there is good intent to fix the system, but it requires more than intention, we need political will, skilled people and visionary leadership if we want to really see improvement in drugs supplied in Guyana. I see this as a bipartisan issue and believe that everyone should come together to solve this problem.

A supply chain solution is required and the Government must act fast before it’s too late. With a G$6.5 billion 2017 Budget, there is more than enough money to ensure everyone that requires public healthcare, gets access to medicines and supplies.

The following are a few things the Government should consider:

* Understand that a Supply Chain System is required and not simply buying, storage and delivery.

* Skill-set is a must and it’s a non-starter if you don’t have the right people in the right function.

* The 2017 Budget has more than enough money to fix the problem.

* Make this a bipartisan issue and remove politics from the process.

* Think about changing to a Supply Chain Department and create a system where you can find and pay for the right skills with some elements of private sector style management.

* Part-time overseas consultants WILL NOT solve the problem, it never has. It needs a local organic approach with people who understand the local system and culture.

I would personally put my politics aside to help on this front.


Malcolm Watkins

Certified Supply Chain Professional