I wish to respond to a story that appeared in The New Vision of June 26, titled, â€œReturn Health Centres to Govt.â€ A district health official was quoted as saying that scarcity of medicines is due to late arrival of funds from the ministry and lack of an efficient transport mechanism from the National Medical Stores (NMS).
It is not true that the NMS transport mechanism is one of the causes of scarcity of medicines in public health facilities.
NMS runs an efficient delivery system supported by a committed staff and big trucks. Each truck covers several districts on the same route. For example, a truck carrying supplies for Kabale may also deliver to Mbarara, Ntungamo and Kisoro, depending on its capacity and the volume of supplies ordered by that region.
Where the volume of supplies to be delivered is very big, two trucks may be sent to the same delivery route.
Lack of an efficient transport mechanism would mean that the deliveries are not regular. However, NMS deliveries are regular because we deliver every 30 days to each district. This is in spite of a memorandum of understanding signed between NMS and the Ministry of Health requiring NMS to deliver once every 60 days. NMS has gone an extra-mile to deliver every 30 days without extra resources from the Government.
I agree that lack of transport to move medicines from the district headquarters to the respective health units is a hindrance in the delivery of health services. This is why NMS is to start delivering to the lower health centres effective July 2009.
Currently, NMS delivers only to district headquarters and regional referral hospitals. The programme to deliver to lower health facilities is to start as a pilot project in four districts. Depending on its success, it will be rolled out to the entire country. Because NMS trucks are too big and sophisticated for village roads, private service providers will be contracted by NMS to transport the medicines from the district headquarters to the lower health units.
The new NMS is committed to the delivery of medicines and other medical supplies to public health centres in a timely manner. We are glad that some donors have promised to support our services.
The writer is the public relations officer National Medical Stores