Health minister blames drug shortage to delay in Ports clearance of MHMS containers


MINISTER for Health and Medical Services Dr Culwick Togamana has blamed the shortage of medical drugs on the slow process of clearing containers at the Solomon Ports.

Togamana said container loads of consumables coming in at the Ports wharf needs the Ministry to pay for the clearance and that is one of the challenges his ministry is facing.

“We used to have imprest for our container and is about 45 thousand and we normally run short on that for container clearance.

“So we have negotiated with the Ministry of Finance and Treasury and they kindly increased that by 20 thousand so that we (MHMS) can deal with customs clearance quickly and get those drugs to medical store for their eventually distribution to our health facilities not only here in Honiara but health facilities at rural areas as well,” he said.

Togamana explained that getting the drugs to provinces is also another challenge for them.

He said the islands are geographically scattered and so medicines need vessels to ship to provinces.

“And, so there are no government vessels that can be used to transport drugs to provinces, this is because now as all vessels are privately owned and ship owners expected Ministry of Health to pay for freight.

“And for those ships that we have accumulated arrears they will refuse to carry medical drugs to provinces,” Togamana said

He adds in terms of the government procurement system everybody needs to understand that it takes a long period of time when it comes to that process.

“And so during those processes of waiting some of the drugs reached their expiry dates and so, we realised that,” Togamana said.

Leader of Opposition Matthew Wale in response said this is crazy when it comes to drugs.

“Ticking the box at Treasury is more important!

“This is crazy when it comes to life saving medicines, ticking the box at Treasury is more important. We are in a situation that procurement process is not efficient and needs to be improved,” Wale said.

Minister for Minister of Finance and Treasury Harry Kuma adds that his ministry is aware of a number of presentation provided to them by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

“I really believe that management at Treasury are fully aware that medical service is one of the very core businesses of government’s services delivery and I don’t think they will hold up essential payments like this and it is essential services that are very important 

“I am 100 percent sure that they are aware of the importance of medicines and the importance of getting it quickly.

“I suggest that it needs communication improvement on top level and also directly to senior management of Treasury and of Finance,” Kuma said.

The above sentiments were echoed in Parliament.

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