The Ministry of Health would like to respond to a number of concerns raised on the media including social media pertaining to shortages of certain medical drugs and consumables and the use of medicines in packs labelled in a foreign language at our National Referral Hospital (NRH) including medical supplies to Malaita Outer Islands.
But first, MHMS apologizes for the delay in response and acknowledges the concerns raised. There will always be issues and challenges with medical supplies however health remains committed to provide responses for public information and more importantly take the necessary and appropriate actions and corrective measures to address these issues.
Shortages of certain Medical Drugs and Consumables
The issue of shortages with certain drugs at a given point in time over the past months till today is still due to the impact of delays with international shipment of medical supplies to Honiara that should have arrived in the months of April, May and June 2022. They only arrived in July, August, September and even first week of October, last week. The delay with arrival is also linked to delays with production as in the case of India and China pharmaceutical companies supplying us with medicines have had to halt production as many of their workers were also sick with COVID-19 in 2021 to early 2022.
Nevertheless, a total of 26 medical containers that arrived in July and August have already been released and distribution have been ongoing with basic and emergency drugs given priority for distribution across the country. Distribution by sea in itself also has its own challenges. Irregular shipping services to some provinces and refusal by some passenger vessels to take medical supplies are common reasons for the delays in sending supplies to the provinces.
MHMS is still working on releasing containers that arrived in September till last week. They contain antibiotics such as Benzyl Penicillin Inj. 5 mega unit, Ceftriaxone inj., and Cloxacillin that have also been raised on social media. Paediatric Cannula for children have also been released and moved to NRH.
There are also other containers yet to be released but are not prioritized since they contain PPEs which we already have in stock, thus will be dealt with later. This could be the ones alluded to by Solomon Star front page news article today, 11th October.
MHMS have assessed the payment processes and as mentioned in previous statements, an alternative payment route for swift release of containers from shipping agents is to increase imprest with our National Medical Store so they themselves can expedite payment as soon as supplies arrive at Honiara port.
MHMS had successfully discussed this with the Ministry of Finance and Treasury for an increase in NMS imprest from 50,000 SBD to 250,000 SBD. Once this is done, we should be able to avoid any more delays with the remainder of containers coming in for 2022.
In the meantime, MHMS is working tirelessly to release few of the containers yet to be released.
Medical drugs in foreign Language
Drugs labelled and with descriptions in a foreign language other than English, are medical drugs donated by the People’s Republic of China. These drugs are in the country’s essential medicines list and have been endorsed for use in Solomon Islands by the National Medicines and Therapeutic Committee (NMTC). This committee is responsible to assess, approve or disapprove the use of medical drugs including vaccines in the country.
Most of these China-donated medical drugs have English labels and instructions placed in their packages and all clinical staff, doctor and nurses are advised to liaise with NRH Pharmacy team for confirmation should there be any uncertainty.
Medical Supplies to MOI
Finally, irregular to lack of shipping services to Malaita Outer Islands in the past months has been an ongoing challenge for the Ministry to dispatch needed medical drugs and consumables to this remote part of our country.
Health is fully aware of the risks to health and lives of our people there and thus have been reaching out to ship operators for their scheduled travels to MOI unfortunately without much success to date.
As such a request has been lodged to the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIPF) to support with shipment. Once this is confirmed an update will be provided. On this note, MHMS is calling on local shipping operators to cooperate and work with MHMS when the need arise, for timely delivery of medical supplies across our country and to our people.