Inexperience and Theft Caused Medicine Shortage

HEALTH Minister Richard Kamwi yesterday said he has delegated the deputy permanent secretary, Norbert Forster, to take charge of the State medical stores to solve the medicine shortage, which he said is still haunting the country.

The appointment of Forster came after a few meetings of the ministry’s top management and the special aisers to the minister where it was discovered that a new inexperienced team was running the central medical stores.

Kamwi said as part of the solution, a steering committee put together to look into the problems asked permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi to allow his deputy, who has the experience and technical know-how, to supervise and manage the central medical stores.

He said the stores ran almost dry when experienced staff was transferred to different departments in the ministry while others did not get their contracts renewed.

Kamwi said the shortage was also caused by non implementation of decisions a general attitude in the ministry to deal with abnormal situations as normal theft of medicine by ministry staff and a lack of a health information system.

He said the other reasons were a lack of contracts with suppliers staff shortages at the stores inadequate management logistics insubordination from staff and lack of communication within the ministry structures.

The minister said he found out about the shortage while visiting Katima Mulilo and Ongwediva last month. At the time, the minister said, the stocks were as low as 73% – the worst crisis since independence.

He told The Namibian that the issue of the ministry under stocking medication started surfacing late last year but the situation became dire a month ago.

Kamwi said he ordered the office of the deputy minister to work with all regional depots and the central medical stores to assess available stock.

According to World Health Organisation regulations, Kamwi said, stock of, especially critical and essential medicine should not be lower than 90% loading.

Kamwi said the ministry was in the process of stocking up and that they were using army trucks to speed up the distribution of medicine around the country.

The steering committee consist of the minister, deputy minister, the permanent secretary, deputy permanent secretary, two undersecretaries and the three special aisers to the minister to address the problems.

The steering committee ordered Forster to provide Ndishishi with progress reports, which are presented to the minister. The report also recommended the return of the former medical stores staff who were transferred to other departments.

The minister said he briefed both President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Prime Minister Hage Geingob about the situation.

Ndishishi refused to comment yesterday.

Source : The Namibian