NMS: A full store is not an efficient Store.
By Rosette C.K. Mutambi
EACH time there is an outcry of lack of medicines by the community at health centres nearest to them, the Government and indeed the National Medical Stores (NMS) is quick to show us a full store at its headquarters in Entebbe.
Civil Society members and on some occasions, Members of Parliament have been taken on a tour of the full and sometimes overflowing NMS store. NMS on such occasions is keen to have the media around and for some days Ugandans are assured that the store is full of the much needed essential medicines and will soon reach those in need.
What is amazing is that, this seems to work for the Government as a public relations gimmick as public outcry is silenced for a while as people expect that the medicines from the full store will eventually reach them as the intended beneficiaries.
But professionally a full store is actually not an efficient store. In simple terms, a store in this context is not an end but a central place where medicines are kept in transition to the end users – the patient. Nowadays and increasingly companies are operating JIT concept.
The JIT-Just In Time concept where goods arrive just in time to be used. The less time such goods spend in the store the better as space is freed to accommodate new stock and the flow continues.
While I do not want to oversimplify stores management and especially when it comes to medicines, I wish to communicate to the Government that a full store is not a good indicator of efficiency. Of what use are medicines in a full store, if TB patients, diabetic patients, malaria patients, HIV/AIDS patients and others cannot access them at health centres nearest to them.
The blame game of saying that Health Centres are not requesting for the medicines cannot hold because staff at the Health Centres are employed and supervised by the Government. The question is who stops the Government from employing competent personnel at such health centres capable of making proper quantification and ordering at the right time.
It is high time the Government and all concerned, see access to healthcare both as a human right for all and as an investment for the country. When someone dies prematurely, the Government loses. When someone fails to work for days due to ill health, the Government loses. To fight poverty, the Government needs a healthy population and access to medicines is a key pillar in the health sector.
So NMS, a full store does not necessarily put the pill in the mouth of someone who needs it at that particular time. So next time there is an outcry take the cameras, the MPs and CSO to one of the health centres and show us if the stores there are full.
Writer is the Executive Director, HEPS Uganda – the Coalition for Health Promotion and Social development