MHMS forewarned on looming drugs crisis months before: Officials

By Alfred Sasako

THE Ministry of Health and Medical Services was forewarned of the looming drugs crisis, but the top echelon of the Ministry appeared to have ignored the warning, officials said.

“Someone from the National Medical Store (NMS) warned the Permanent Secretary that if the drugs situation was not addressed by May 2018, we would be in trouble,” officials told Island Sun on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

“It was that serious,” one official said, adding other things might preoccupy the Permanent Secretary’s mind. He may now pay a heavy price for this blunder as fall-out from the crisis looms.

“We cannot play around with people’s lives.”

The Government on Tuesday ordered the entire drug shortage situation put under the microscope. Senior officials from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury and others yesterday convened at the Ministry of Health and Medical Services’ headquarters to assess the situation.

Blame-game occupied discussions often punctuated by heated arguments, forcing the Minister of Health and Medical Services Hon Dr Tautai Angikimua Kaituu to abandon chairing it.

“It was good the Secretary to the Prime Minister, SPM Jimmy Rogers, was there. He took charge by chairing the meeting,” senior officials confided in island Sun.

“It was a heated argument amongst all the health officials, one faction blaming the other.

“One thing was very clear there was absolutely no coordination at all between the Ministry and those looking after drugs,” one senior official said.

The official pointed to a recent incident when Health officials approached the Office of the Prime Minister for the purchase of three machines doctors use to test blood.

All three units were not working and need urgent replacement, the official said.

“Emergency funds were approved to buy the machines, only to find afterwards that a brand new machine was sitting in a crate at the medical store. The crate was never opened, the machine was never used

“This is the lack of coordination I am talking about. The National Medical Store was aware of this machine sitting there, those who are supposed to be using this machine were never told it was there,” the official said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services was ordered to create two templates – one showing drugs we have run out of, the other to show the quantity Provincial Hospitals have in stocks.

“The idea is to establish whether emergency drugs we urgently need are sitting in the Provinces, which could be used in the interim until drugs now being ordered start arriving next month, the official said.

The officials went back to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to see whether there are life-saving drugs are in fact still in abundance in the country. Island Sun was unable to establish the Ministry’s findings.

Apart from concerns by members of the public, the drugs crisis has dominated social and mainline media discussions.

One asked: “Is there anyway the PM could take drastic measures and ordered needed meds to be flown into the country and dispersed to our hospitals ASAP?

“Sounds easier said than done but am sure some people would agree with me that we needed these medicines like yesterday… there have been claims that the situations could be prevented are happening, death(s) simply due to lack of appropriate medical supplies.

“This is purely negligence by responsible authorities, people get sued for this. whatever it is, just get the damned medical supplies into the country and start saving lives… for we only have one life to live… 1 life… not 1 and half, 1 life,” the frustrated poster said.

One official said Cabinet had decided that if it had to, the Government would charter an aircraft to flying urgently needed, life-saving drugs.

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