Health Minister says Explains Delays in Medication Supply
In an interview with Love News, Health and Wellness Minister Kevin Bernard addressed concerns related to pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Minister Bernard explained that suppliers are delivering pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and the ministry is distributing them to health facilities countrywide. The statement comes after a local media house reported otherwise. Bernard says the information shared by the media house was not accurate. Bernard, however, conceded that there were delays.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “When someone of that status or supposed status in the media would go to length in trying to bring down a ministry – not that it was able to be done but to incite negativity on a very, and on a situation that we all know is challenging at this time. Let me give you a backdrop on the process that has to be followed. As you’re aware the ministry went through its tendering process. Tenders were submitted and then after its lengthy process and signing in late August suppliers then have another three months to start to ensure that deliveries are made. Now was that the process that we implemented? No, that’s a process that I found that was already in the pipeline. What has happened is that this has happened even before my time and even before my predecessor’s time there had been challenges with the whole tender process. What we have now implemented and I took the cabinet two weeks ago a paper that was approved to reduce the timeline and to move up the tender process from that late May/June period and bring it up to where the ministry would make the start the process of doing the forecasting from June of every year that goes through its normal stages because you have to look at usage, you have to look at number of patients and you have to look at the scenario. It was a very unique situation for the Ministry of Health in terms of our forecasting for this fiscal year because we were still in the pandemic, we were still in COVID, there were certain services that were not being done in the regions because of the fact that people were not going to the hospital to get some of those services addressed as they were fearful of catching COVID and no one blames them for that.”
According to Minister Bernard, Cabinet has also given its approval for the ministry to start the tender process earlier so contracts can be signed with suppliers by mid-December every year. This will give suppliers a three-month lead time to be able to source and deliver pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “When you looked from the supply chain side and you look at the time. So when the late tendering process was going on it also creates delays. What happened suppliers need to ensure that they could lock into their products and their pricing at a certain time. When we signed these agreements in August and you have September, October, November and I had committed to the Belizean people that we were going to push as hard to get even if the emergency items to come in by the end of October. Right now as we speak suppliers have been delivering their products but there is a process. Not because you sign a contract to deliver for example Tylenol let’s use that or paracetamol or whatever and you bring in your products you have to be inspected. Those products have to be inspected. We cannot where it comes that the items are in country distribute it to the regions and then when you find out it’s inferior quality. Our drug inspectorate office has to go in and inspect to make sure it’s quality drugs, to make sure it fits the criteria of what you signed on to the tender those things take time too. There were issues outside the control of the supplier, outside the control of the ministry and it all surrounds the timeline of where for example getting items out of China during that period has been difficult, getting items out of India has been difficult so the closer manufacturers are the ones you could but it comes at a higher cost too. So the ministry what we have done now is to ensure that we could fix the process, fix the process that we found in a very perfect storm, a perfect storm that allowed us to look at this now cycle and see where we need to change, what we need to shift, what we need to adjust and make sure we improve. I can guarantee to the Belizean people that when you talk about the next tender cycle these issues about medications being late, suppliers not being able to lock into their manufacturer commitments all that will be sorted out because we are giving the suppliers enough timeline, we are doing our process internally as well at an earlier stage so that we do not be part of the problem as well in creating the delays and so by the time it goes to the Ministry of Finance and the Contractor General who we have also said needs to ensure that when the documents come to you please these should be the one who just go over to make sure every process was done. I mean there are situations that, and I will say this publicly, that it has taken painstakingly some long time to get a response back from the Contractor General, that creates problem, that creates delays and so all of these things in the cabinet paper we try to address and improve.”
As it relates to issues affecting the Southern Regional Hospital, Bernard explained that the matters are being addressed effectively.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Medications, pharmaceutical supplies are coming into country. They are being delivered as we speak. Today another major shipment is arriving by one of our major suppliers and another set of deliveries. So one of the concern is that there is no medication in the southern region. That is not so. There are certain medications that had to be inspected and is now being delivered. Tomorrow for example and today Southern Regional Hospital Punta Gorda they are getting a major supply of medications that are needed. As I said many of the suppliers have worked closely with us and they went beyond to fly in these emergency products because they are needed at the hospitals so that we could distribute them and then in the next weeks to come there are the ones that the rest will be coming through their ships. So once these items are in country and are inspected then they are sorted and distributed in a timely manner based on requisition and based on usage across the country.”
Reporter: Is there a request process that comes with that like the different institutions request what they need? How does the ministry then go about distributing based on I don’t know maybe urgency? What is that process like.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Yes what happens is that they each pharmacists in the region has the BHIS system where they make their requisition. For example you will list maybe a list of 25 items that you need with the bulk numbers that you need for those specific items those are sent to the central medical store, the central medical store houses certain items and while there is also where suppliers house some others because of spacing we have limited spacing we have at central medical stores. So what will happen is that the system is set up where we monitor what is at every location including suppliers and bill will be sent to our suppliers if it’s not at CMS to the supplier who has the tender, who brought in the product and has been inspected and then those requisition are sent and sent delivered. They are delivered by directly to the supplier to the regions. And when that arrives at the region the pharmacist then does the inventory check, input and then it updates the BHIS nationally to show that Southern Regional Hospital has received X amount of medication or Northern Regional or Western Regional or Matron Robberts wherever it is that’s the process that happens. Now what requisitions are sent in once a month. We have also requested at the last meeting we had with CMS that these things need to be done twice a month. Pharmacist should start to look at their – and their internal procedures where you have a minimum stack and a maximum stack level that you must maintain.”