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Business News of Thursday, 16 July 2020


Coronavirus: NHIA still indebted to local drug manufacturers

The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana (PMAG) is sounding warning bells that if debt owed its members by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) is not paid soon, some of the manufacturers may be forced to halt production – an action that would affect government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Association, over GH¢300million of debt owed its members has not been paid, despite persistent complaints which eventually led to withdrawal of credit deals with some regional medical stores and service providers funded by the NHIA. That action has, however, not pushed the NHIA to settle its debts; thereby denying local drug manufacturers the funds needed to operate – a situation that will have negative implications on the fight against the virus as they may no longer be able to produce.

“We are a business. When you are a business-person, you do what is needful for the business. If you don’t have money because government owes you up to five years, there is no way you will have money to bring in COVID-19-related medicines. We take loans and the loans are pegged to certain collaterals; so, there is a limit to all of these things. Once you exhaust your limit, even if you want [to produce the COVID drugs], you can’t,” Executive Secretary of the PMAG, Lucia Addae, told the B&FT in an interview.

Government has been urged to take lessons from the pandemic situation that has led to closure of borders, necessitating the reliance on local health service providers to fight the pandemic with resources within the country. One of the suggestions to government is to restructure operations of the Regional Medical Stores to make them efficient and to support the country’s fight against COVID-19. This includes revising management of the medical stores, which should come with clear Key Performance Indicators (KPI) strictly monitored by the Ghana Health Service.

The immediate past Chief Pharmacist for Ashanti Region, Kofi Baryeh, commenting on this in an interview with B&FT said: “Looking at the current situation, it is about time government recapitalised the regional medical stores. When that is done, they have to put proper measures in place so that people will not abuse the system in terms of procurement, in terms of mismanagement of the funds, misapplication of funds and other management protocols. With all these in place, a proper monitoring system needs to be instituted by government. If that is not done and we want to leave the Regional Medical Stores to function properly, it will take them about 10 years to make enough profit to turn things around if issues of misappropriation and mismanagement are not avoided.

“It is profit and funds accumulation that will make them catch up and be profitable. The profits they get on their operations are marginal, and over the years have not been managed well. Some regional medical stores are owing suppliers for about two years, and therefore some suppliers will be hesitant in giving you drugs at a point. I would strongly encourage government to recapitalise the various medical stores of the regions, and make sure proper measures are put in place to ensure sustainability and accountability.”

As of Wednesday, July 15, 2020, the number of recorded cases for the virus had hit 25,252 with 139 deaths – putting the death rate below 1 percent. This feat has been attributed to sound health care and the availability of drugs for treatment.

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