Health Ministry exempted from N$25m tender limit

By Maria Kandjungu

THE Ministry of Health has been granted exemption from tender regulations to procure medical supplies to alleviate critical medical shortages countrywide.

The ministry’s executive director, Benetus Nangombe, told Confidente that the ministry approached Treasury last year for exemption from the public procurement threshold, arguing that the set limit of N$25 million was too low to sufficiently cater for the whole country’s medical needs.

“The public procurement put a threshold to engage acquisition that is of N$25 million dollars. We, however, have realised that N$25 million only caters for 10 percent of the country’s medical needs, and if we only spend N$25 million we will not be able cover the whole nation’s requirements,” Nangombe stated, adding that the procurement system has been one the factors that greatly contributed to the shortage of medicine in the country.

He explained that because of the set limit, the ministry in the past would acquire inadequate amounts of medicine at a time and they would later find themselves in situations where medicine and other supplies were out of stock.

That was how the ministry ended up with critical medical shortages because if the medicines are out of stock at the central medical store then it means all hospitals countrywide are gravely impacted.

“We asked Treasury to allow us to buy beyond N$25 million, which has now allowed us to buy sufficient stock that will help manage the current status.”

According to Nangombe, they received a green light last year and got Treasury approval for the funds around the same time, allowing them to order their first batch of medicine which according to him has already begun to stabilise the medicine shortages in the public sector.

“We have already put in our first orders and several items have been received and we have put up schedules to deliver them countrywide. We have already seen good progress… we are still dealing with issues of short notice cancellations by suppliers, which of course affects our efforts to fast-track the delivery of medicine, but we have received several items and we have started with the delivery process. A schedule has been put up as we speak to deliver those items to hospitals around the country,” he said.

He further added that the ministry is working to modernise its delivery system so that the central medical stores can monitor the availability of medicines. The new system, he says, will allow for smoother and easily monitored orders of items from the central store.

Confidente has over the past year reported on the shortage of medicine and other pharmaceutical supplies as the ministry has been struggling to provide medicines to institutions throughout the country. The medicine shortage become a crisis especially in 2018 when almost every hospital country wide was experiencing some shortages, ranging from basic pain medication, to critical medicines, such as antiretroviral drugs (ARV) and anaesthetics used before surgery. At some point last year the ministry even ran out of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication for patients in the psychiatric hospital.

The situation has resulted in patients take to the media to complain of a shortage of medicine and pharmaceutical supplies, which often required of them to purchase these supplies at private pharmacies.

Various incidents whereby patients were told to buy medical items for in-patients, such as catheters, syringes and various medicine for various ailments at private pharmacies because they were out of stock at state pharmacies, had been reported in recent months.

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