Richer Health Ministry struggles to provide sufficient drugs supply

Sheridan Mahavera Jason Santos Nabihah Hamid

Starting this year, pensioners get their prescription drugs from the public hospitals, which has added to the patient load, says the Health Ministry. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, August 14, 2017.

A SPIKE in patients and problems with a medical supply distributor are among the reasons the Health Ministry is struggling to provide its hospitals with a sufficient supply of drugs and medical supplies.

This is despite the ministry getting an extra RM2 billion in its 2017 budget from the federal government, said its deputy secretary-general Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai.

The ministry received RM24 billion from Putrajaya this year compared with RM22 billion last year, said Dr Jeyaindran, but that was not enough for the 20%-25% rise in the number of patients seeking treatment at the government hospitals.

As a result, drugs and medical supplies for each patient has had to be rationed so that everyone will get some.

The rationing is especially felt by regular patients with such ailments as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

They complain that their usual 30-day supply was cut by half at the start of this year.

Dr Jeyaindran, however, assured the public that the supply problem was expected to be fixed in two to three weeks and things would return to normal.

“It’s a bit of a double whammy for us this year. We asked for and received extra money but we had an increase in patient load and a problem with our vendor at the same time,” Dr Jeyaindran told The Malaysian Insight.

“But we have fixed the vendor problem so we expect to be able to provide patients with their regular supplies in two to three weeks.”

Depleting buffers  

It is a standing policy for all public hospitals to have a store of two to three months supply of drugs, said Dr Jeyaindran, adding that this was the ‘buffer’.

The buffer is to ensure that the hospital will be able to provide all patients with the drugs they need even if supply was disrupted.

Two developments this year affected the hospitals’ ability to maintain this buffer.

Early this year, the ministry’s main vendor suffered internal problems and was unable to deliver the supplies on time to all hospitals, he said.

Also starting this year, the ministry switched to directly supplying drugs to government pensioners instead of through a third party.

This means that pensioners get their supplies from the public hospitals and that increased the patient load, said Dr Jeyaindran.

Amid all this, more people were switching from private to public hospitals to save money, he said.

The higher patient load and supply disruption ate into the buffer and compelled the hospitals to ration the medicines they dispensed to ensure that all who needed medicines would receive them.

“But our vendor has informed us that they have resolved its problems and regular deliveries are expected to resume soon. So our hospitals should be able to replenish their supplies.”

At same time, the ministry would also begin cost-cutting measures to optimise its spending such as by reducing unnecessary tests and treatments, he said.

“Even the World Health Organization estimates that 30% of healthcare budgets are (spent on) unnecessary tests and investigations,” he said. – August 14, 2017.

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  • " .....the ministry would also begin cost-cutting measures..." Remove the vendor, who is most likely a crony rent-seeker! Centralize procurement and buy directly from manufacturers. Can or not? Or must have kickbacks?

    Posted 6 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply