Improve supply, distribution of drugs


THE Health Department, instead of using middlemen to order medical drugs and medicines, has been given the green light to order directly from World Health Organisation (WHO)-sanctioned manufacturers.
This arrangement will hopefully put an end to the existing problem of shortage of medical drugs in the country.
Prime Minister James Marape wants quality drugs to be readily available without middlemen.
This means straight to the Health Department from a trusted source.
He said people’s lives could no longer be endangered with an ineffective drug-procurement system.
It is a commendable move to procure and have quality drugs on hand in record time, but what about the supply and distribution to the end users, especially those in rural areas? The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on the inquiry into the procurement, supply and distribution of medicines in 2019 revealed governance of the health system and medicine supply chain remains a real problem in Papua New Guinea.
It highlighted flaws in the procurement, supply and distribution of medicines and medical kits throughout the country.
It showed the medical supply and distribution systems had been compromised because the (Health Department) allowed this to happen by either complacency, incompetence, design and or greed.
Endless reports of deaths from curable diseases, deaths of mothers from child birth, closure of many health facilities due to shortage of medicines/medical kits and doctors/health workers threatening to walk off their jobs happened. This is despite the awarding of millions of kina in public contractors for the procurement, supply and distribution of medicines in the country.
We have reported on the process of ordering and supplying a minimum set of medical supplies across the country which is complex.
Those in the system know that procuring of medicines can take up to six months just to get them into the country, plus another month to send them from Port Moresby to other provinces.
Hospitals in the country have over the years been affected with shortage of medicines mostly as a result of an administrative slip-up relating to procurement. The drug shortage can adversely affect drug therapy, compromise or delay medical procedure resulting in medication errors.
Doctors use medicine to save lives and cure diseases and sicknesses.
Without medicine and funding, one cannot accept doctors to help patients.
This has led to many patients being forced to purchase medicines from pharmacies or private hospitals.
The sad reality is that not everyone can afford to purchase medicines from pharmacies or private hospitals.
Let alone in rural areas, where there are no pharmacies or private hospitals.
The rural population of PNG wants access to evidenced-based medicine and they care not who provides it, as long as it is up to date, timely and has positive outcomes.
In this country, we are faced with major challenges due to the majority of the population being dispersed across remote locations.
If this Government is serious about rehabilitating the decaying health system and weeding out corruption in it, then the PAC inquiry report must be foundation to clean out the health system.
Time to crack the whip and toe everyone in line with what is expected, otherwise it will all become talk, talk and talk.
We hope that will be a thing of the past with the order to buy drugs and medicines without middlemen from WHO-sanctioned manufacturers.
The new drug procurement system will only be rewarding if changes are made to improve the supply and distribution system.