Securing the sound management of a future Central Medical Store
One of the biggest unfortunate events to usher in the year 2015 was the fire outbreak that ravaged one of the key assets of the health ministry: the Central Medical Store (CMS). The CMS as a strategic health asset was the hub of the ministry’s centrally procured essential medicines (both donated and self-financed), medical equipment, and other consumable items the ministry’s service delivery points solely relied on.
In a blink of an eye this valuable asset with its establishment spanning decades of years in the nation’s history has been reduced to an irrecoverable detritus. The cardinal impact from this national catastrophic incident will largely be the potential lack of access to affordable and quality health commodities at the ministry’s health facilities as it has been predicted to be observed in 3 months or so when the stocks at the regional levels get depleted.
Notably, the CMS’s monopoly of certain high risk and critical medicines as antiretroviral drugs, anti-snake sera, antitubercular drugs for HIV-AIDS, snake bites and TB respectively when viewed in the face of this tragedy presents a gloomy picture in the interim management of these cases at health facilities when regional and facility stock levels finally get used up. These are not ordinary medicines and there is actually no possibility of even finding them in the open market to purchase due to the aforementioned monopoly of its management in the local health system.
The need to implement immediate measures to assure the steady supply of these special commodities is indeed imperative.
Reportedly, the management and operation of the CMS had been called into question by the health minister prior to the incident. It’s been reported that substantial quantities of medicines had their shelves lives outlived—expired, in other words. Anecdotal reports have also called into question the standards at which medicines and other medical supplies were being kept at the nation’s biggest public pharmaceutical supply chain entity. For example, news items have raised concerns regarding the lack of fire safety measures and equipment.
Let it also be known that although the CMS was the nation’s biggest public base of pharmaceutical supplies, it was never a licensed and registered pharmaceutical supply chain entity and so are all the ten regional medical stores (RMSs). The implication is that the CMS as well as its subset RMSs have been in operation for all these while without regular monitoring and inspection by regulatory bodies—Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Pharmacy Council etc.--to assure strict adherence to best standards in pharmaceutical management.
It therefore comes as no surprise that failure by the management there to comply with fire safety procedures has been cited as a possible cause along with suspicions of arsonist attack. Already reported incidents of theft cases have and continue to roil the smooth operation of these key national health assets.
This tragedy does in indeed calls for immediate overhaul of the operations of all the RMSs and the CMS. It is time the Pharmacy Council and the FDA expand their regulatory net to cover all the RMSs in the country and duly license them annually as its being done to private pharmaceutical supply chain entities to ensure strict adherence to the regulatory bodies’ standards for medicines supply and management.
More importantly, the Ministry of Health should take into consideration immediate steps to privatize the management of all RMSs and any future CMS as part of the radical overhaul of the ministry’s logistics management system while the commodities continue to remain under the ownership of the ministry.
As one social commentator put it, the tragedy to the CMS was a “disaster waiting to happen,” therefore processes should be kick started to avert a similar fate from attending the CMS’s subset entities such as the regional and district medical stores.
The writer is a Senior Pharmacist and the Head of Pharmacy at King’s Medical Centre, Bontanga-Tamale