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Referral hospitals want NMS monopoly broken

FILE PHOTO: NMS medicine supply.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The authorities of various regional referral hospitals want the monopoly of National Medical Stores to procure and supply medicine broken, according to the Public Accounts Committee Chairperson, Nathan Nandala Mafabi.

He disclosed this on Tuesday as his committee was finalizing its engagements with National Referral hospitals over queries raised by the Auditor General’s report for the Financial Year ended June, 2018. The committee was interfacing with officials from Kabale Regional Referral Hospital led by the Director, Dr. Sophie Namasopo.

During the meeting, Nandala noted the demand from different Hospital directors about the need to break the NMS monopoly, which they say over prices essential drugs, sends them drugs with a short shelf life and confuses orders leading to drug stock out among other things. Issues of expired drugs and stock out of essential drugs have been rampant in several audit queries.

Nandala asked Dr. Namasopo for her opinion on NMS operations in regards to pricing of drugs and what steps they have taken.  Nandala, who said that drugs from NMS should be cheaper since it enjoys economies of scale, said that many hospital directors had suggested that it was better for them to receive money for drugs so that they carry out purchases.

Dr. Namasopo acknowledged the complaints against NMS when it comes to pricing of drugs, saying that her hospital has raised similar complaints with NMS in the past.

Responding to complaints of being supplied with drugs with a short shelf life, Dr. Namasopo said such supplies are given by NMS but indicated that when detected at delivery, her hospital declines to receive such drugs.

In 2017, the Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi ordered an audit into NMS for allegedly supplying cancer medicines at inflated prices to Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).

The audit revealed that NMS had caused a financial loss of Shillings 2 billion to taxpayers. The report also accused NMS of supplying the cancer institute with poor-quality medicines. However, NMS run to court saying that Muhakanizi had no power to determine the standard and quality of drugs supplied.

Speaking to URN in a brief telephone interview about developments in PAC, Dan Kimosho, the NMS Spokesperson, dismissed claims that the statutory body is over pricing drugs since they are not in business with the aim of getting profits.

According to Nandala, issues regarding NMS operations are to be discussed with Ministry of Health officials whom his committee is set to meet on Thursday. Established under the National Medical Stores Act, 1993, NMS is mandated to procure, store and distribute human medication and health related consumable items to government owned health units in the country.

NMS’ mandate also includes distribution of drugs and vaccines to the Police, Army and Prisons and across the country.



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