The Minister of Public Health told a conference with media operatives today that the Board of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) has launched an investigation into the entire ‘Ansa Mcal sole sourcing scandal’ while the Ministry of Public Health has launched an investigation as well into other matters involving the supply of drugs and medicines.
“We are investigating that matter and other matters. The investigation has been going very slowly because they are documentations that cannot be accounted for so there is presently a search to find these documentations….So the Ministry is in the process of investigating several matters with regards to supply of various medicines and drugs,” she said while noting that she made this call for an investigation since she is unsure as to how the tender board is involved.
The Minister noted that several investigations are ongoing, some of which the police are involved in.
“We have auditors working overtime, a group of persons assisting in several investigations, several matters now with the police.”
In addition she posited that a lawyer is being engaged to deal with delinquent suppliers.
Lawrence went on to explain to media operatives what transpired leading up to what is deemed the “Sole sourcing scandal.”
“On February 3, I asked for a meeting with the Directors and senior management along with the CEO of the GPHC because it was reported to me that there was a crisis in terms of drugs at the GPHC and as a result the medical facilities which fall under the purview of the GPHC was also suffering. During our discussions in order to ascertain why there was a shortage, I was told a few things. [This included the fact that] over 200 drugs were in short supply,” she recalled.
The Minister said that the reason provided to her for this was that the usual suppliers indicated their inability to fulfill contractual arrangements.
“Suppliers supplied a few items and since indicated their inability to supply those drugs listed on the contract.”
As a result of that, and in addition to the previous year of short supplies, a gap was created within the hospital.
“Upon further questioning, I was also told that in order to fill that gap, the hospital was buying these drugs on a needs basis from private institutions. I intervened by having a stock count being down to ascertain whether the numbers that they had listed as being out of stock are the real numbers and that there are no drugs on the list provided in the bond. That count was done and concluded on and the list was 287 drugs was out of stock,” the Minister asserted.
She said that discussions were held to determine what mechanism would be used to fill the gap in the shortest time possible since the 2017 tenders had not gone out and even if they had been, the process and time span for the medical facility to actually receive those drugs would be between some 6 months.
“We decided that what we can do, we can look at the short list of companies and ask them to bid on the list of items that were needed…At that meeting, it was also discussed that those companies being investigated or those companies that did not fulfill obligations on prior contracts will not be asked to do a two weeks turn around.”
Lawrence stated that documents were prepared and four companies had uplifted them, paid their monies and bid on the list of items, highlighting that stocks were being supplied as per tender given and contracts made.
“…then I was called one morning indicating that there was a contract for ANSA McAL in the sum of $600M. I wanted to know why ANSA McAL is being given that amount. The CEO indicated that this was the bid they had sent out and this is what they had responded to. The second day after all of the documents pertaining to the tender for ANSA McAL was in the newspapers and the roller coaster started from then.”
She noted that while Cabinet was aware of the drug shortage, they were not aware of the process to rectify the matter, since that is usually reported after it is completed.
Minister of Public Health said that she was unaware as to if any payments were made but expressed optimism that the investigation will disclose everything.