By Tabora Bojang
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh has said the shortage of drugs in public health facilities is a major challenge to the health sector.
The minister made this admission at the national assembly this week where he was confronted with concern and questions from the assembly members.
The NAM for Niamina West Demba Sowe took the floor first and charged the minister to explain what is responsible for the shortage of drugs at all health facilities in his constituency and other parts of the country even after his ministry had received a significantly ‘improved amount’ of money in the current budget.
In response, the minister said his office is aware of the drug situation in the country and is doing everything possible to address this major challenge of the sector.
Dr. Samateh, a former chief medical director at the EFSTH before his appointment in March, also agreed in recent years, there has been an increase in the budget allocation but it is still below the required amount needed to procure the entire requirement for the country.
He said the ministry has transformed its procurement mechanism by diversifying its sourcing strategy with an essential medicines list, EML, reviewed and updated in 2016 and it will procure for the public health facilities.
“Essential medicines are expensive and ensuring their continuous availability in all our facilities at all times is a daunting challenge and requires additional financing.
Without the support of the partners such the Global Fund, World Bank and the UN agencies the situation would have been more serious,” Minister Samateh noted.
The NAM for Foni Kansala Musa Amul Nyassi asked the minister to the explain what is considered to be an essential drug in the public health facilities that should be accessible at all given time.
The minister said essential medicine is a broad term defined by the WHO as medicines that satisfy priority healthcare needs of a population and the selection of medicines depends on the public importance of the disease.
“The whole list of medicines procured by the Ministry is considered part of the essential medicines list.
Due to financial and budgetary constraints, the Gambia is able to spend less than $2 per person every year,” he revealed.
“With this in mind, it is extremely difficult to guarantee the availability of all essential medicines at all times,” he lamented.
The minister added that patients admitted at any of the facilities should not be asked to buy essential medicines prescribed for their treatment.