Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence on Monday stood up against the outcry over an emergency purchase of drugs for the Georgetown Hospital and defended the public hospital’s decision to fast-track the $605 million purchase in drugs as being in the best interest of citizens.
The Minister has come up against mounting criticism from outside the government for the large purchase but is arguing that it was done to ensure that citizens would not be confronted with a prolonged period of shortage of essential drugs and also to guarantee that drugs being provided to the public healthcare system is of good quality.
The Minister’s decision has also gained the attention of former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran who has called for the Public Procurement Commission to launch an immediate probe into the purchase.
But even against this call, Minister Lawrence believes that the purchase can be justified and said she has no problem with the process being questioned and investigated.
Appearing on the Jumpstart Morning Show on 94.1 FM, Ms. Lawrence said she has already taken the initiative and has asked the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation Board to launch an investigation into the process to ensure it was done in compliance with all regulations and standards.
Minister Lawrence sees no problem with the Public Procurement Commission also becoming involved in the probe and welcomes the suggestion.
“I have absolutely no problem with scrutiny but I want the Guyanese people to know that I’m responsible for their health and I am responsible for ensuring that all the medical facilities are operating at a level where they [citizens]can walk in and be served,” she added.
The Minister examined the history of the situation that led to this emergency purchase and recalled that since 2011, some local suppliers of drugs have failed to honor contractual arrangements and were tardy in the delivery of drugs.
Minister Lawrence said the Auditor General’s 2015 report also addressed in detail the companies that did not supply the drugs leading to a national shortage where the GPHC reported at one point that over 200 drugs were not in place and had not been in place for some time.
She said there were complaints of poor quality drugs also being purchased.
“We must remember that it was an emergency purchase to fill a gap that was created because of shortfall by the suppliers in 2016,” she added
The Minister said the situation had forced the hospital to purchase drugs from pharmacies in Guyana at high prices.
She related that some of the pharmacies were owned and operated by the very contractors that failed to fulfill their end of an existing contractual agreement.
“So if persons bought a lot of drugs and have it on the market to sell at high prices they won’t be happy that we are stocking up because they will leave with it and it could be many other things why we are hearing this hue and cry.”
Minister Lawrence said that of the four companies chosen to provide the drugs which are being purchased out of Europe, they were each given a contract based on what they indicated they could provide within the two-week turn-around period.
She has also dismissed claims that storage of the drugs will become an issue and assured that there was adequate and safe storage available.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW: