Hospitals across Vanuatu are experiencing medicine shortages.

Concerns are mounting over the shortage of certain medicines, particularly amoxicillin to treat body infections and the failure of the Government to ensure sufficient medicine supply, leading to delays and cancellation of treatments which can exacerbate the condition of the patients.

The Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Health (MOH), George Taleo, said the shortage resulted from the demand of patients in Vanuatu.

Another reason is that there was a delay in the procurement process at the end of 2018 during which the list of medicines had to go through the Central Tenders Board (CTB) and Development Committee of Officials (DCO) before approval by the Council of Ministers (COM), he added.

Normally the government will make available funds for the medical procurement following approval from COM.

The budget that was approved to purchase the medical supplies for 2019 up to 2020 was over Vt230million, according to DG Taleo.

DG Taleo said the tender process was delayed because some of the CTB members were on leave at the time.

“By the time the Request for Tender (RFT) were sent out to international suppliers to bid for, it was already too late,” he said.

“However, the ministry is now taking steps to address the issue.

“An urgent meeting was held with the Health Minister last week. The ministry has alert the contractors that were granted approval by the government to supply medical supplies and equipment to address our situation.

“An order has been made for urgent medical supplies. We are expecting these supplies to arrive next week.”

While explaining the causes of the shortage, DG Taleo said other alternatives will be taken to manage patient’s care while waiting for the importation of the medications from the suppliers.

Manager of the Vanuatu Medical Central Store, Wilson Lilip, told the Daily Post yesterday that the medicine shortage which persisted since last week was unexpected.

He also assured that amoxicillins will be back on the shelves by the end of this week and will be distributed to provincial hospitals, clinics and dispensaries in the rural areas.

This urgent order is expected to maintain the supply until the next bulk of medical supplies arrive by ship later in May or June.

Asked if the shortage is related to money issues, Manager Lilip said sometimes part of the failure is in the medical supply system.

The list of essential drugs for procurement are made by the ministry based on information provided by health providers, he said.

Lilip said this current nationwide medicine shortage is the first ever after many years.

The shortage is not only causing concerns for the patients and their families but has become a challenge for health workers trying to deliver the best treatment for patients.