Poor and low income families, unable to purchase life-saving drugs at high costs from private pharmacies, are the major victims of the critical shortage of drugs at government pharmacies, says the Fiji Labour Party.
“This is a chronic problem that has plagued our nation for years now but has become extremely critical in recent years, said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry, responding to the Fiji Times article (FT 8/11) on the critical drug situation at government pharmacies. .
Mr Chaudhry said while lack of funds was a contributing factor, the main reason appears to be a lack of professionalism at government pharmacies and the Health Ministry.
FLP is reliably informed that there is utter chaos in the way supplies are handled. No proper records are kept of drugs that are needed, what is available, how much has been used and how they are distributed through the system.
“The procurement system is cumbersome. We are told that government gets drugs mainly from India, some from China and Pakistan at cheaper prices. But there are disadvantages. It could take between 4-6 months for drugs to arrive in the country after an order has been placed,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
Unlike Australia and New Zealand, India does not have a warehouse system. The drugs are only manufactured once an order is placed. They are then tested for certification before being despatched. The whole process could take a few months. India also does not have direct shipping links with Fiji which means that the drugs have to transhipped through Singapore, Auckland or Sydney.
FLP would be very surprised, therefore, if a new shipment is in by the week-end as claimed by the Minister unless emergency supplies are being brought in from Australia/New Zealand.
“We understand private pharmacies are well stocked with the most needed life-saving drugs. Why is it not possible for patients to obtain the required drugs from them? The pharmacies then bill the government,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“This way the poor can still have access to expensive life-saving drugs at times like this when government pharmacies are critically low on supplies. At least we won’t have people dying from a shortage of life saving medicines,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
Meanwhile, there is a pressing need for a thorough overhaul and rationalisation of the whole supply, delivery and procurement system in the Health Ministry to address this chronic issue.
“The matter should be given utter priority. People’s lives are at stake. My advice to government is to use the expertise and professionalism of private pharmacists to clean up the government system,” Mr. Chaudhry said.