Health workers’ group slams ‘irresponsible’ DOH for wasting medicines, supplies
MANILA, Philippines — A group of health workers has slammed the Department of Health (DOH) for allowing over P2-billion worth of medicines and other medical and dental supplies to be wasted and expired, saying it is a glaring contrast to hospitals’ small budgets.
According to the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), DOH clearly misused their funds, which could have been allocated instead for the purchase of medicines needed by COVID-19 patients.
The P2.2-billion worth of medical and dental supplies that are either expired, nearly expired or are moving slowly from warehouses to its destination had been recently flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) in its 2019 annual audit report for DOH.
COA said that the delay in the distribution of the items can be attributed to poor procurement planning, inefficient and uncoordinated transfers, and the lack of proper monitoring and storage, all of which prevented the delivery of high-quality medical services to the people, especially the poor.
“This is clearly an irresponsible act and total negligence on the part of DOH, that while the budget allocated to the MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) of 66 DOH hospitals is very small, billions of pesos worth of medicines and supplies have just expired at DOH offices,” AHW national president Robert Mendoza said.
“Patients and even health workers are dying because tertiary public hospitals like Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC) have limited budget for MOOE to purchase medicines and medical supplies including the emergency purchase of drugs for COVID-19,” he added.
Mendoza speculated that had the government skipped on buying these medicines and supplies that were only wasted, it may have given additional funding to various hospitals during the health crisis.
“This has led to the death of our comrade and fellow health worker, Judyn Bonn Suerte, who was forced to be transferred to Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (DJNRH) because the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, where he worked does not have a medicine for COVID-19 patient like him,” he noted.
This is not the first time that COA called DOH’s attention over expired or expiring drugs and supplies within their stockpile. In 2019, COA released its audit report of the agency for 2018, which showed that P367 million worth of drugs is still within DOH’s warehouses.
The issue brought another point of discussion for DOH, which already beset by allegations of incompetency amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers asked DOH to explain why medicines were kept and not distributed, but the department said that transfer is currently ongoing and might be finished by the end of the year.
Mendoza said that something needs to change with DOH’s systems, or else the same things would happen in the coming years.
“We are very concerned that this kind of anomalies and negligence will happen again in the next coming years if the budget for the ‘Purchase and Allocation of Drugs, Medicines and Vaccines’ and ‘Assistance to Indigent Patients’ will be centralized at the DOH central office and regional offices,” he claimed.
“Gross neglect by the DOH and government authorities is unacceptable. Someone has to be held accountable. Medicines are wasted despite so many people are dying and seriously ill because they cannot afford to buy their medicines and not being able to get relief due to the government’s callousness,” he added.
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