President urges transparent drug distribution

Saturday, 15 July 2023 00:05 –      – 40

  • Proposes provision of up-to-date information on medicine availability across hospitals via Health Ministry-managed websites
  • Instructs Health Ministry to expedite access to FDA-approved drugs
  • Calls for amendments to NMRA Act to facilitate swift action, eliminate obstacles in drug procurement
  • Discusses extending retirement age for doctors, mulls persons from Arts Stream for nurse recruitments
  • Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella reveals NMRA had not submitted reports except for first year in 2015
  • Appoints a team of experts to assess NMRA initiatives and provide recommendations within two weeks
  • Suggests amending rules collaboratively to tackle medical workers not registered with SLMC 
  • Treasury assures to provide funds to Health Ministry to address outstanding bills this month

President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday stressed the need for transparent drug distribution and real-time updates to improve access to medications in Sri Lanka.

During a meeting with the Health Minister, top officials of the Health and Finance Ministry, the President proposed the establishment of websites managed by the Health Ministry to provide up-to-date information on drug availability across hospitals, which will be updated daily.

The move aims to enhance transparency and enable people to access information regarding drug availability.

To streamline drug distribution and overcome bureaucratic obstacles, the President called for the implementation of a networking system that allows for the transfer of drugs between hospitals. “By bypassing administrative hurdles, this system will ensure a more efficient and effective distribution of medications,” he added.

The President also emphasised the importance of hospitals maintaining inventories and having real-time information available on computer systems, enabling patients and healthcare professionals to identify the availability of specific drugs.

Addressing the challenges caused by current procedures leading to drug shortages, President Wickremesinghe instructed the Health Ministry to expedite the approval process for drugs endorsed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other countries.

He also called for amendments to the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Act to facilitate swift action and eliminate obstacles in drug procurement.

During the meeting, the President addressed various other issues, including the extension of the retirement age for doctors to 63 years until the end of 2014, and for other special cases as per the requirement of the Health Ministry. In addition, the consideration of those from the Arts Stream in the recruitment of nurses, budget allocations, and the need for fully equipped medical facilities was also discussed.

“I do not think we have to change the regulations for nurses that even people with arts subjects can be taken up for training and doctors retirement, we have taken the position to allow them to go up to 63 years and also for other special cases which the Ministry will mention,” he added.

Regarding the NMRA, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella revealed that the authority had not submitted reports on its activities since its inception, except for the first year in 2015.

“As a result, a new team was appointed, including Prof. Jayaratne as the Chairperson and

Vijith Gunasekara as the CEO. The NMRA had faced delays and deliberate obstructions, leading to the reassignment of some staff members to the Health Ministry,” he added.

In addition to the previous information, the effectiveness and necessity of the NMRA were questioned during the meeting, leading to suggestions of justifying or repealing the authority.

A team of experts, including a Treasury Member, was appointed to examine the NMRA’s initiatives and provide recommendations within two weeks.

The President said that the Health Ministry, SLMC, and the Prime Minister’s Secretary will work together to make the required changes to the regulations over the next two weeks regarding medical workers who have not yet registered with the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC).

The discussions also highlighted the need to review procurement processes within the health sector in order to reduce government expenditure. While consultants were considered to provide a report on procurement processes, the President suggested making prompt decisions during the meeting itself. The Health Minister was encouraged to consult with the Attorney General to initiate necessary actions and proceed with amending relevant regulations.

Treasury Operations Director General H.C.D.L. Silva addressed outstanding bills sent by the Health Ministry over the past two months. Out of the total outstanding amount of Rs. 14 billion, around Rs. 10.5 billion is attributed to medical supplies.

Silva reassured that the necessary funds would be provided to address these outstanding bills within the month.

Presidential Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, Presidential Secretary Saman Ekanayake, Prime Minister’s Secretary Anura Dissanayake, Health Ministry Secretary S.J.S. Chandragupta, Deputy Treasury Secretary R.M.P. Rathnayake, Health Services Director-General Dr. Asela Gunawardena and the heads of line institutions and senior officials in the health industry attended the discussion.

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