Govt struggling to ease drugs shortage

- Post Report, Kathmandu
Health Minister Gagan Thapa says procurement process has been eased for the purchase of necessary medicines

Feb 2, 2017-Despite releasing over Rs500 million to district public health offices to procure necessary drugs, the Health Ministry is still struggling to address shortage of drugs in district hospitals and health posts. On top of Rs390.15 million provided to District Public Health Offices in September 2016, the ministry sent an additional Rs110 million this January for the purpose.

Amid reports of drugs shortage in various districts, Health Minister Gagan Thapa on Wednesday revealed that despite sending over Rs500 million to all the districts for drug procurement, many of them have been unable and unwilling to procure it. In a strongly-worded appeal, Minister Thapa said that while annual drugs procurement would be done by April, the released amount was meant to address the current crisis. 

“I have directed the officials to purchase the necessary drugs and immediately ferry the drugs to health facilities. Procurement process has also been eased; they can now purchase the drugs by taking out a 15-day notice. Drugs worth up to Rs500,000 can be purchased directly in case of emergency,” Minister Thapa said in a statement. “Each district public health office has also been asked to inform the ministry if they face any difficulty procuring the drugs. We will arrange to send additional funds or send the medicines within 24 hours.”

According to the Health Ministry, the district public health offices should procure the drugs only till April after which the drugs procured by the Logistics Management Division of Department of Health Services will arrive. The division is responsible for procuring necessary drugs and dispatching them to the district public health offices. However, the ministry has been unable to procure necessary drugs for the last two years as the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) intervened in the procurement process following complaints of anomalies. 

Since it has to deal with drugs shortage every year, the Health Ministry is also working on a long-term reform in drugs procurement with amendments to the Procurement Act. The amendment in the Procurement Act, according to ministry officials, will ease the purchasing process as well as avoid 

any unnecessary legal hassles faced by officials, including investigation 

by CIAA in every major procurement.

According to Minister Thapa, the procurement reform action plan--an overarching document that proposes overhauling of the procurement process to ease buying--has been amended and will soon the implemented. The government had decided to distribute drugs to various health facilities--70 types of drugs in district hospitals, 56 in primary health care centres and 35 in health posts.

Published: 02-02-2017 08:22

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