( Human rights , Commercial, Land and Environment lawyer, Media,Communications Consultant and trainer)
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
THE MEDICINES PROCUREMENT PROCESS AND QUALITY STANDARDS AT NMS
THE MEDICINES PROCUREMENT PROCESS AND QUALITY STANDARDS AT NMS
By Moses Sserwaga
Chronic shortages of medical supplies were the mainstay in many government health facilities in the late 1980s and early 90s largely due to the mismanagement of funds that used to be disbursed to the districts to purchase medicines. The Ministry of Finance used to release funds directly to the districts to procure medicines and other medical supplies for government health facilities. But in many cases the medicines would not be purchased leading to shortages of drugs in hospitals and health centers.
The government then took a decision to recentralize the procurement, storage and distribution of medical supplies when it set up the National Medical Stores, (NMS) on December 3rd 1993. Twenty years down the road, there has been remarkable progress in the availability of medicines in all government hospitals and health centers across the country.
National Medical Stores (NMS) now procures a range of health commodities (about 2,400 items) using a stock list guided by government health facilities procurement plans. The individual facilities procurement plans are aggregated to form the NMS procurement Plan and subsequently the NMS stock list. The items procured include;Medicines, Hospital Sundries and Consumables, Hospital Equipments, Antiseptics & Disinfectants; Orthopaedic supplies; Laboratory and Diagnostic products, Hospital Stationary, Dental supplies, and Assorted stockless Inventory.
National Medical Stores being a government body, procurement is regulated by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).National Drug Authority(NDA) as the regulator for the quality of medicines and medical supplies in the country is also a key stakeholder in the procurement process.
According to the Head of Procurement at the NMS, Mr. Natamba Alfred Turyahika, most of the medicines and medical supplies are goods in joint demand (e.g. injectable and syringe). NMS therefore puts measures in place to ensure that all the items are available at all times according to the facilities requirements. “Additionally, All the medicines we procure must be appropriately embossed to deter pilferage” he says.
NMS has built a wide supplier base to ensure that the required items can easily be sourced to the satisfaction of the health facilities. The supply base consists of local pharmaceutical importers, local manufactures, international suppliers and manufacturers. The suppliers are identified through a rigorous prequalification exercise that is conducted after every three years.
NMS has a fully fledged quality Assurance Department .The role of the Quality Assurance Department at NMS, is to work closely with the National Drug Authority to ensure that all medicines and medical supplies that have been manufactured locally or imported in Uganda are highly efficacious (i.e. of good quality), says Ms. Caroline Abalo,the Quality Assurance Officer. Quality Assurance Department is involved in the procurement process right from setting specifications for the items to be procured to the actual evaluation exercise.
Ms. Caroline Abalo, the Quality Assurance Officer, said that NMS has strict quality control mechanisms to ensure that only medicines and medical supplies of high quality are purchased and distributed to government facilities for public consumption. Abalo assured Ugandans that NMS does not compromise on the quality of medical supplies it procures for government hospitals. “We take great care and we cannot put the lives of Ugandans in danger. We check and test everything we send out for public consumption we ensure total compliance to local and international set quality assurance standards,” She emphasized.
According to the Head of Procurement, a number of innovations have been made to ensure that the requirements of the health facilities are met all the time. These include;
• NMS advocated for separate regulations for procurement of medicines and medical supplies. The procurement laws have been amended to include separate regulations for procurement of medicines and medical supplies. This will go a long way in ensuring that procurements are concluded in time and medicines and medical supplies availed to the population
• NMS enters into framework contracts for supply of medicines and medical supplies. These allow for quick flexibilities in case of changes in demands for the required items
• Expansion of the suppler base to include international manufacturers and suppliers will enable NMS to procure good quality medicines and medical supplies and in the quantities required by NMS to satisfy the health needs of the Ugandan Population
As NMS celebrates 20 years of existence, Alfred promises that NMS will continue to efficiently and effectively procure quality and affordable medicines and medical supplies for the Ugandan population and called upon all Ugandans to be vigilant and ensure that drugs and other medical supplies delivered at government hospitals and health centres are not sold to the public. He also appealed to the health workers to ensure that their needs are properly and timely communicated in form of procurement plans to enable NMS avail them in a timely manner.
Writer is a communications, media and legal consultant
I’m a Development Communication ,Media and Legal Consultant specializing in good governance and development communication . I’m also a human rights, Commercial and Environment lawyer. I have served as Editor at Saturday and Sunday Monitor and Advocate of the High Court with 10 years of
governance and development consultancy work;16 years of reporting and editing and 11 years of providing legal advocacy services, respectively.
I have initiated and participated in capacity building programmes as
a Promoter of good governance and rural development communication , peace and respect for human rights in war affected areas . I have worked as a Trainer, Presenter, Rapporteur and Resource person at different fora. I have written widely about issues of media and communication ,law reform ,human rights, gender balance,public policy , national development , good
governance and the rule of law and environmental protection in Germany and Uganda.