Regional Health Officers “pilfering drugs, medical supplies,” blamed for shortages

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Regional Health Services (RHS) Director Dr Kay Shako said ending theft and wastage of drugs and medical supplies can help improve Guyana’s healthcare delivery system.

Regional Health Services (RHS) Director Dr Kay Shako

There will also be significant improvements if bad behaviour among some Regional Health Officers (RHOs) is stopped, Shako said.

A three-day RHOs meeting was recently held at the Lake Mainstay Resort in Region One.

According to a release from the Ministry of Public Health, the RHS Director said low circulation of critical items for patients happens “because of pilfering” of drugs and medical supplies in the public health sector.

On the issue of the theft of drugs Shako said the RHS is aware of those behind the reprehensible behaviour.

“We know who you are,” Shako said warning participants not be surprised when the police get involved.

According the ministry’s statement, the RHS Director is disturbed by “the piles of expired drugs” in the healthcare system because of poor forecasting by RHOs and in some instances, a delay in the arrival of drugs in the 10 Administrative Regions.

Foregrounding inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, the RHS Director also threatened firm disciplinary measures against some RHOs who are unnecessarily absent from duty.

“Stop the madness” Shako told participants while addressing the issue of absenteeism.

She also chastised some RHOs who are inelegantly dressed for work while there are others who smoke and/or are drunk on the job.

Shako is also peeved that some RHOs allow some health programmes to collapse completely under their watch while others are on the verge of fragmenting.

Some participants at the Opening of the RHOs seminar

“Put people in strategic position to help monitor programmes (and) ensure there is succession planning in all Regions because you cannot do it alone,” Shako told RHOs at the meeting.

She faulted them also for allowing public health facilities to operate without proper licencing, disclosing that the Finance Ministry queried whether the “Riot Act” was read to erring RHOs.

By Friday all RHOs will be expected to complete the necessary documents to ensure the illegality ends forthwith, Shako said.

According to the statement, despite these deep-seated challenges highlighted during the Director’s remarks, there were noted gains in the delivery of healthcare in review year.

For 2017 the RHS system was able to deploy more than 20 new Community Health Workers (CHWs) to Lethem which is located in the Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) area and also in Barima/Waini (Region One).

Shako noted too that 21 Medex were deployed across the 215,000 square kilometres of the country while four medical specialists – a General Surgeon, a Paediatricians, an Internal Medicine expert and a Radiologist – were sent to Region One.

Over the review period, nurses also agreed to take up posts at Barima/Waini; Pomeroon/Supenaam; Essequibo Islands/West Demerara; Mahaica/Berbice; Cuyuni/Mazaruni; Potaro/Siparuni and Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo.

Shako also argued for the salaries of physicians in the public sector to be on par with that earned by doctors employed at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) noting that upgrades by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) remove much burden from the sole referral hospital in the capital.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

Last month, Finance Minister Winston Jordan read the riot act to various heads of budget agencies, permanent secretaries and regional heads at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.

He questioned the reason for the lack of performance from certain ministries.

For instance, he noted the increased allocations to the health sector but continued drug shortages.

“Why do we have increasing allocations to the health sector, but continued drug shortages and less hospital inspections than previous years? Health accounts for 12.5 per cent of the national budget, in 2018. What intervention within the budget proposal will resolve this conundrum of increasing allocations but declining availability?” he questioned.

He also made a reference to the performance of the education sector and the Public Infrastructure Ministry.

“Why do we have increasing allocations to education but still less than 50 per cent of our children as passing Math and English? Education accounts for 17.2 per cent of the national budget in 2018. What in the budget proposal will resolve this?” Jordan questioned. “Why do we have increasing allocations for maintenance and infrastructure development, yet our Public Sector Infrastructure Programme is filled with requests to rehabilitate existing infrastructure?”

Jordan urged them to do introspection and critique their systems. This means, according to Jordan, offering workable solutions.

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