The island’s lone general hospital and local medical and pharmaceutical distributors are struggling to overcome factors behind a chronic shortage of supplies.
Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Dr Dexter James and the group representing the local pharmaceutical distributors met earlier this week to discuss the ongoing challenges, particularly the out-of-stock problems, which have been affecting the health care facility frequently.
While Dr James declined to give details of the meeting, well placed sources told Barbados TODAY the millions of dollars in debt owed to local distributors by the QEH was high on the agenda and that plans were being made by the hospital administration to at least cover the arrears within a 90-day period.
Dr James however said Government was committed to providing additional funding to the QEH, having given a sum of money last week. He said he was not in a position to give figures at this time.
The hospital CEO said though that he was workng out a partnership with the distributors to help satisfy the outstanding debt.
Asked what were some of the main reasons responsible for the chronic shortages, one of the major distributors said the main challenges were created by the QEH.
“They owed us large sum of money for a long time and have not been able to pay. We have put them on a cash basis where 50 per cent of the cash paid goes to cover the old account and 50 per cent the current account,” said Chief Executive Officer of Bryden Stokes Limited Geoffrey Evelyn.
He warned that when his company was not paid, it had a ripple effect along the supply chain, while pointing out that certain suppliers often demanded their money by a specific time.
Another local distributor pinpointed the outstanding debt to suppliers as the main cause of the recent shortage.
He said millions of dollars was also owed to his company, but they were working with the hospital to ensure it continued to receive credit.
“We have not gone down the road of closing the account, but putting it on holding account,” the distributor noted.
An industry leader admitted that some of them had received relief with regards to the debt, adding that the bigger suppliers were owed so much money that honouring their obligation was proving to be a challenge.
Pressed on the issue by Barbados TODAY, Dr James admitted that one of the main reasons for the current shortage was the QEH’s inabiity to meet its payments on time. He also said the unavailability of certain types of drugs was contributing the the problem.
“More people are going towards generic drugs [and] because of the increased demand for generics, small suppliers in Barbados cannot get them,” he pointed out.
The hospital CEO said there was a need to improve the supply chain across the board.
“All hospitals across the world experience shortages from time to time, some more acute than others.
“Yes, there is a shortage of drugs in Barbados, but the situation is not as bad as a few months ago. It has improved since December, but it is not where we want it to be,” Dr James added.
He also attributed the shortage to a situation where the manufacturers produced large batches of drugs which were too big for the Barbados requirement. The QEH boss said it simply did not make economic sense to purchase them.