No drugs, no funds

The nation’s financial ills is worse than medicine shortage



WHILE Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela has downplayed the seriousness of the acute shortage of medicines at the National Referral Hospital, there’s mounting evidence the nation’s economic situation is nose-diving – fast.

Public criticisms are mounting that the government has lost the handle on the nation’s finances. There are suggestions that heads could roll as a result of mishandling the timely procurement of life-saving drugs for the NRH.

While the government is frantically trying to deal with the situation, people are dying on a daily basis.

These deaths are either directly or indirectly connected to the shortage of drugs or medicines.

The latest victim was a child who perished while awaiting emergency treatment at the NRH’s emergency ward two days ago.

The Medical Ward is said to be the hardest hit.

Prime Minister Houenipwela told a joint news conference with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services Dr Tenneth Dalipada in Honiara on Sunday that the acute shortage of drugs was under control.

“Urgently-needed drugs would start arriving between now and September,” he said.

Dalipada told the news conference that it was not the question of money as the government had made adequate appropriation in this year’s budget for buying drugs and medicines for the NRH.

“It’s the question of the procurement process,” Dalipada said.

Of the $50 million allocated for drugs’ purchases, only less than $20 million was used up so far, he said.

According to figures published in Island Sun’s editorial yesterday, donors provide almost $900 million in funding various sectors of health services in Solomon Islands.

The Australian Government, for example, provides a four-year funding program at the cost of AUD47.8 million (about SBD321 million) beginning in 2016.

But the nation’s finances are worse than the drug shortage at the National Referral Hospital itself.

Government Ministries too have been hard hit with many officers finding out there was no money to pay for sea fares for them and their families who are going on leave.

It appears the Ministry of Police and National Security has been hard hit.

One officer who spoke on condition of anonymity told Island Sun yesterday that officers were issued cheques to pay for their sea fares only to find there was no money in the government accounts in the banks.

“The problem is when we presented the cheques the shipping companies simply turn around and say there is no money in the accounts. So we are stranded in Honiara, I don’t know for how long,” the officer said.

In Malaita, the Provincial Health Director, Dr Henry Kako said Kilu’ufi hospital has sufficient medicine and consumables for the next two months.

“There is enough drugs to sustain the health needs in the province for the months of July and August,” Kako said.

Meanwhile Dalipada again confirmed the drug shortage is known to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Ministry is working “very hard to alleviate the situation.”

“The turnaround time is 6 months and once you missed that you would be delayed further. What MHMS is doing is to fly in emergency drugs and consumables to get the ministry to August when the interim order will arrive which will get us to June 2019.

“We have already started the full order for 2019. This lot will arrive in April of next year so the interim order that will arrive next month will stabilize the stock between now and next month we are flying emergency suppliers to keep theatre and other critical items available,” Dalipada said.

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