By Alfred Sasako
THE National Referral Hospital (NRH) is still without blood analyser machines, despite government assurances that the storm over drugs shortage has blown over, it was revealed this week.
“The NRH is without blood analyser machines. Clinicians are now relying on a private laboratory and manual analysis, which takes a lot longer for the result to come through,” sources told Island Sun.
Despite the urgency to get the machines, the procurement requirements by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury in buying the machines are adding delays to these life-saving machines to Honiara, NRH Chief Executive Officer, Steve Aumanu, told Island Sun from Fiji on Wednesday night.
“For reasons of wear and tear over prolonged heavy usage, three laboratory analysers broke down at different times during the last 6 months. This is unusual and very unfortunate,” Dr Aumanu said.
“These analysers are: 1 Haematology 2. Biochemistry and 3. Electrolyte,” Dr Aumanu who is on annual leave told Island in an email from Suva.
“NRH Laboratory services are affected and tests are being done manually or are being sent to VanuLab (private lab) for analysis whilst steps were taken to find funding to procure new replacement analysers,” he said.
“Other tests not at all done here have always been sent to Australia.”
“The services provided to NRH by the VanuLab are at times irregular and costly but they are analysing patient blood tests in the meantime and supporting the NRH Clinicians,” Dr Aumanu said.
He blamed reduced funding for what is what is happening at the NRH, which he said was allocated only $3 million in our Development Budget for 2018 which has been used for other priorities at the beginning of 2018.
“This is the budget line for such capital Medical equipments,” he said.
“Faced with this no-funds problem, I sought direct consultation with the Prime Minister’s Officials to source direct funding approval to purchase these three life-saving analysers.
“In less than a week, through a cabinet paper; Cabinet approved funding under Contingency Warrant (CW) of about NZ$238,200.00 to purchase the three analysers.
“This cabinet approval was confirmed in the second week of July.
“I was extremely happy but it is the SIG Procurement process/ Finance instructions that must be complied with and that frustrate everyone. The procurement process is now being progressed through Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“These analysers will require REAGENTS to function. There is SBD$2M for this sitting with National Medical Stores budget which must also be sourced separately to procure these specific reagents.
“Again, I am doing the right things always with concern and urgency but the normal Finance, Procurement compliance SIG systems are beyond my control,” Dr Aumanu said.
“… if NRH ( CEO) has powers over its own budget; I can react briskly to the regular emergencies occurring at NRH without having to face these delays which are unacceptable for a Hospital.
“There is so much that needs to be done for the NRH ( I can give a whole lecture on these needs) but there is not enough resources allocated to it every year in the budget. In fact NRH Budget continues to be reduced.
“Maybe the recent medicines & supplies ‘commotion’ and the NRH Visit by (the) Prime Minister was an opportunity for the public to demand better resourcing to Health and NRH,” Dr Aumanu said.