By Awa B. Bah
Muhammed Ndow Member for Banjul Central
The National Assembly Member for Banjul Central has observed that drugs are rarely found to be enough in government health facilities. Hon. Muhammed Ndow made this remark while raising concerns before the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Madam Saffie Lowe Ceesay, at the national assembly. Hon. Ndow asked the minister the measures put in place by her ministry to address the shortage of drugs in government facilities.
The minister for health and social welfare in her response indicated that the Ministry recognizes the fact that access to medicine is a fundamental human right and government is determined to ensure that there is an uninterrupted supply of essential medicines and other health commodities at public health facilities at all times.
She said this noble goal is faced with numerous challenges such as increase in population growth, resource constraints, emerging new diseases with the burden of communicable diseases such as HIVI AIDs, TB and Malaria as well as an acute rise in Non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disorders, asthma, cancers, sickle cell disease, kidney disease, trauma, burns, fractures etc., to name a few.
She added that the low level investment in health is less than 8% of GNP coupled with free health care for pregnant women and children, exclusion from user fee payments to the destitute and certain chronic illnesses such as mental health, HIV I AIDs and TB.
She said this is complicated by the low cost recovery rates charged on drugs, diagnostics and certain services by the Drug Revolving Fund, DRF, in a bid to complement service delivery in cases of shortfalls in likely funding from GLF sources. The Ministry she revealed has formulated The National Medicines Policy which aims at ensuring the continuous availability, accessibility and affordability of essential medicines of appropriate quality, safety and efficacy, as well as to ensure the appropriate and rational use of medicines by health services providers. She said her ministry updates the National Standard Treatment Manual and the Essential Medicines list on a regular basis.
In recent years, she indicated that there has been an increase in budget allocation; that this however, is still below the required amount needed to procure the entire requirement for the country. The Ministry she said, has embarked on resource mobilization through the World Bank and other donors to fill in the gap.
The Ministry, she informed, has transformed the procurement mechanism by diversifying its sourcing strategy to make it more competitive and are embarking on strengthening the public health supply chain and logistics management information systems so as to make it more responsive to public need by delivering the right product in the right quantity and at the right health facility.
The M&E Unit she said, has been created under the Department of Planning and Information and they are mandated to regularly monitor all supplies across the health supply chain. The Minister said there are already monitoring and control measures in place to guarantee accountability and transparency in handling medicines and other related supplies at all health facilities