The crippling shortages of medical drugs at public health facilities blamed on the ailing procurement processes at the Central Medical Stores (C.M.S) are no big deal for the Ministry of Health.
“From time to time, CMS experiences shortage of drugs. However, the continuous supply of drugs to government health facilities is reliant on a broad range of factors,” says the Ministry of Health spokesperson, Doreen Motshegwa.
She said that, the factors leading to the shortages include effective stock management at clinic or hospital level, prompt order processing and delivery by CMS, budgetary controls, governance factors in the procurement of the medicines, registration controls for products, the ability of manufacturers to supply, and even international freight transit times.
“While continuous supply of all medicines remains the goal of the Ministry of Health, any combination of these factors can negatively influence supply at any time. However, currently the drug levels stand as vitals 80 percent and essentials at 70 percent,” said Motshegwa.
The factors mentioned by Motshegwa, sources in the Ministry say, are precisely what led to consultants being brought in at C.M.S to improve procurement and delivery of drugs. Sources claim this is not happening.
The percentages given by the Ministry are being contested by insiders at the Ministry of Health who allege that since the consultants were brought in, the levels have dropped drastically at times hovering just above 50 percent.
Sources are dismayed that consultants perform administrative duties such as the transfer of personnel neglecting what should be their core mandate.
Asked what the mandate of the consultants is, the spokesperson said “they support CMS operations in a variety of ways under the direction and management of the current CMS Management”.
Asked whether their mandate includes performing administrative duties, Motshegwa said: “The consultants are providing advice and guidance to the CMS management team across a wide range of operational issues.”
Sources have revealed that one senior consultant has taken a four-month long leave since February and will only return in June something they say is detrimental to the procurement processes and leads to the continuing drug shortages.
The Ministry of Health has not denied this. The spokesperson said: “Officers are allowed to take leave when it is appropriate.”