Drugs shortage ‘a matter of life and death’

Dear Editor,

The shortage of drugs and medical supplies is a matter of life and death, and not just a political problem, as some may want to believe. (Earlier this week), we at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition were confronted with this reality in a very direct way.

Two children, juvenile diabetics (Type 1, diabetics who have been on insulin all their lives, and who will always be on insulin) travelled with their mother from Lima Sands, Essequibo Coast to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), only to be told that no insulin was available. They turned for help at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, and requested that we highlight their case. They further explained that, while at the hospital, they were informed by staff of the GPHC that insulin would be available in another four weeks (by May 8th 2017), their next clinic date.

Herein lies the problem: After a $605 million purchase of drugs and medical supplies by the GPHC, and the ensuing scandal of this award going to ANSA McAL without any proper procurement process, a vital drug like 70/30 insulin, needed to ensure the health of our citizens, is not available at our foremost health institution in Guyana.

We sought to verify, through different sources, the state of affairs, and we have concrete evidence to substantiate this claim. There was no insulin in the pharmacy or at the hospital’s bond. We can further confirm that there was no insulin at the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, the West Demerara Regional Hospital, or any of the hospitals in the county of Berbice.

Thankfully, public-spirited citizens who were present at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition financially supported the purchase of this essential drug for the children, going the extra mile by searching various private pharmacies in Georgetown to make the purchase (this was not a case of a beggar trying to dupe people or get money, so no excuses will be accepted).

The question is: What will happen to the hundreds — if not thousands — of Guyanese who suffer from this chronic non-communicable disease that requires daily supply of insulin and other medications?

The Ministers of Public Health should stop making excuses, finding scapegoats and blaming their predecessors and other junior staff for this prevailing incompetence. Penalising staff, such as sending them on administrative leave, having police investigate for theft, and conducting a robust public relations stunt are insufficient actions, and will not deflect the nation’s attention away from the major drug shortage that exists in our health care system. What a Shame!

The APNU/AFC promised the Guyanese people the ‘good life’. Is this the ‘good life’ — causing this family to expend scarce resources to travel from the Essequibo Coast to Georgetown to obtain this service which should have been provided in the county of Essequibo itself? This speaks volumes to the level of maladministration that is taking place in our country.

It is our sincere hope that by highlighting the plight of this family, action will be taken to ensure that the nation gets value for money. Is it unreasonable to conclude that after spending $605 million dollars, we perhaps only got $250 million worth of drugs and medical supplies?  Answers are urgently needed.

Yours faithfully,

Bishop Juan Edghill