New Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony has been uncovering deficiencies and other issues currently existing within the sector.
One of which is the countrywide incidence of drug shortages that have resulted in patients suffering from chronic diseases and not being able to access medication to control their conditions.
During the televised interview ‘Government in Focus’, on Saturday with Host, Michael Gordon, Minister Anthony revealed that for an extended period, essential drugs and medicines have not been purchased.
This has since affected the provision of these items through health centres and other primary healthcare facilities he noted.
“At this point, I can tell you that there are major shortages of medication in a lot of areas and these are medications that patients need on a monthly basis, but they do not have anything when they go to the health centre. This is something that we will have to correct immediately.”
Assessments are being conducted to ascertain the period for which drugs were not purchased, in an effort to address this current situation.
The Health Minister highlighted the effects of this shortage on patients living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where NCDs are considered comorbidities.
“Persons who are diabetic and hypertensive and other comorbidities would be more vulnerable to COVID. The older persons would also be more vulnerable, so, what you have is a potential time bomb, because if you have patients with comorbidities and they are not getting treatment, it makes them more vulnerable,” Dr. Anthony added.
He singled out how this shortage has affected diabetic patients. For several months, the public sector has not been able to adequately supply people with diabetes with insulin.
Dr. Anthony said that during this period, many persons would have had to purchase insulin which has been an unnecessary expense to citizens who need it.
“These are patients who would have been at the health centre being treated and having their conditions controlled because they would receive regular medication, but when this is interrupted for prolonged periods, this will then put their health in jeopardy.”
Since assuming office, the Minister has made procurement of these and other essential drugs a priority.
He said further updates on this issue will be provided after thorough assessment, and the way forward has been crafted, outlining how this will be addressed and how the Health Ministry will seek to prevent future occurrences of drug shortages.