NMS blames drug stock-outs on financial bottlenecks

Parents and children at the children’s ward at Mulago National Referral Hospital on May 26, last year. PHOTO/FILE

The National Medical Stores (NMS) revealed yesterday that financial bottlenecks have crippled its operations across the country this financial year.

Ms Sheila Nduhukire, the NMS spokesperson, said via telephone that  “the delays in the distribution of medicines ... have largely been as a result of lack of timely payment of funds for distribution.”

“These issues have been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and Ministry of Health,” she said, adding, “We are confident that they will be resolved soon so that we can deliver the medicines as we have always done before.”

This follows a public outcry from health facilities across the country that are grappling with anywhere between two and three missed cycles of supply.

Dr Rosemary Byanyima, the acting executive director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, told this newspaper that they “have already placed a request for February” after they received the January supplies.

“There may be some shortfalls where some of the few things were not supplied, but as you know when you go shopping you even find supermarkets lacking a few things,” Dr Byanyima said.

Similarly, Dr Emmanuel Byaruhanga, the acting executive director of Kawempe National Referral Hospital, said: “We get our supply every month and we actually got drugs and other supplies on Friday last week. We are directly in touch with NMS. We get very short delays like days and later on we receive them.”

Ms Nduhukire told us that NMS distributes medicines monthly to national referral hospitals and once every two months to regional referrals and below.

While appearing before the House Committee on Health on January 10, Mr Moses Kamabare--the NMS general manager--requested an extra Shs298 billion in the budget for financial year 2023/2024.

This, he said, would help to increase more funds in providing treatments for HIV, malaria, immunisation, laboratory commodities and emergency supplies.

NMS was allocated Shs513 billion in the next financial year, something Mr Kamabare reckons is inadequate to address the needs of all the public health facilities countrywide.

In a related development,  Deputy House Speaker  Thomas Tayebwa yesterday told Parliament that he also received complaints from his constituency. He consequently ordered the Health minister to  present a statement on that issue of on drug stock-outs on Wednesday.

“I was in my constituency over the weekend. I received very many colleagues who have come to my office on the issue of shortage of essential medicines in health centres,” Mr Tayebwa revealed, adding, “It is a very pressing issue.”

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Health ministry spokesperson, yesterday said “the engagements are still ongoing.” He added that “what is mostly needed is the availability of resources to cater for the growing population.”

Mr Jim Mugunga, the Finance ministry spokesperson, told Daily Monitor that they ‘‘service institutions in accordance with resource envelopes and their work plan.”

“It is my expectation that a central store for medicine in the country cannot allow its stock to run out but would be working towards restocking,” he said, adding, “So we are not dealing with a crisis (stock-out) but rather an issue of restocking.’’


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