PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare has asked the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to explore other modalities of procurement of essential drugs and non-consumables from overseas for the country to improve the availability of these supplies.
This was one of three points raised by Mr Sogavare when he met with officials from the Ministry of Health last week following growing concerns on the low supply of essential drugs and non-consumables currently experienced in the country.
According the MHMS, the availability of essential drugs and non-consumables in the country is affected by three things:
- procurement from the international market,
- fast release from ports authority after they get to the country, and
- rapid distribution to National Referral Hospital, Honiara City Council clinics and all provinces. Delays in any of these three areas will compromise the stocks of medicines and non-consumables available in our health facilities.
The Ministry said Solomon Islands procure our essential medicines and non-consumables through tender and using experienced, overseas-based preferred suppliers.
“Our preferred suppliers source our orders from manufacturers. The COVID-19 pandemic had seriously impacted the drug manufacturing and supply chain mechanisms leading to delays in the assembly and despatch of our orders on time. This has delayed the arrival of our orders into the country.
“Slow payment from our end to the preferred suppliers had also been a major issue. One major preferred supplier that supplies many of our essential drugs had just pulled out of their contract due to non-payment.
“This has caused huge challenges as we had to activate urgent alternative procurement processes to replace the commodities in the order that was abandoned, which also ended up more costly,” the Ministry said.
However, the Prime Minister said the Ministry of Health should discuss with the Ministry of Finance and Treasury and agree on a ‘fast-track payment system’ for port charges and agents fees.
Mr Sogavare also asked the Ministry to explore the acquisition of a dedicated ‘medical supplies ship’ that can undertake distribution of medical supplies including essential drugs and non-consumables to all provinces on a regular basis.
He made this suggestion, after the Ministry expressed to him the difficulty to shift consignments of drugs and consumables from Honiara to the provinces especially to rural and remote clinics.
The Ministry said the challenges involve lack of regular shipping and high freighting costs. Cargo ships are reluctant to take medical supplies mostly due to slow payments. Some no longer accept government LPOs.
The Ministry currently uses shipping and airfreight to move drugs and non-consumables to provinces. However, on many occasions the supplies are taken back to the Medical stores because local cargo vessels refuse to take the medical cargos.
Meanwhile, the Ministry said as of Monday 27th March 2023, the country’s stock levels for essential drugs stood at 71 per cent and for consumables at 89 per cent. 29 per cent of essential drugs were out of stock and 11 per cent of consumables.
“Early last week we received fresh stocks of several essential drugs and consumables by airfreight provided by the Australian government. Additional supplies of essential drugs and consumables will be arriving in the coming days thereby providing a buffer of about three months’ supply of essential drugs and consumables pending the arrival of our bulk orders.
“We thank Australia for providing about four months’ supply of out-of-stock essential medicines which will ensure we still have capacity to respond to our service needs until our full orders arrive in the country,” the Ministry said.
Currently, seven containers, 25 cartons, and two pallets of essential drug supplies and consumables are held up at the wharf.
MHMS said it anticipated the arrival of the rest of their essential drugs and consumables in shipments expected in April, May and June 2023.
“Once these orders all arrive, we will be back up to our ‘full stock level’ on all essential drugs and non-consumables,” the Ministry said.