It’s Taxpayers' Billions
We should be very afraid when drugs run dry at government pharmacies and patients are turned away without life-saving medicines. The Health Department spent R29 billion to buy pharmaceutical supplies, but the cost of drug stock-outs is unquantifiable.
More questions than answers are emerging from the comprehensive procurement catalogue, which was briefly available on the department’s website in early June.
Some key questions regarding the 1,146 products on the list are; ‘Are they all really essential?’ ‘Would it have been cheaper to source some products locally and directly from manufacturers without involving the middlemen?’ ‘What is the cost impact to the country when manufacturers can not sell directly to the department?’ 'How many products on the department's R29 billion list are out-dated?'
In relation to the shortages of essential drugs, we are keen to find out if the contracted tenderers of the ‘missing’ drugs are in breach and if so, how is the department dealing with the culprits?
Another issue is whether the department should continue to spend hundreds of millions of rands buying products such as Cocaine and Morphine Hydrochloride, instead of boosting supply of essential medicines and vaccines.
It must also be noted that since the shortages were reported, the department has attempted to re-order the same. Which vote book was raided to bridge the shortfall?
We will continue to plough through the procurement list of the pharmaceutical products and the contractors involved. Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the current drug shortages issue. This series will seek to establish whether the department’s procurement priorities are wanting. With the help of various medical experts, including pharmacologists, we will attempt to create our own priority list. You can submit your suggestions via firstname.lastname@example.org