Gov’t Expects Delays in Medicine Deliveries

The country’s supply of essential medicines will be late in reaching Cambodia next year, health officials said Monday, citing bu­reaucratic delays and the government deadlock as factors in the problem.

Similar delays in 2003 and 2004 forced health providers to scramble to cover shortages of drugs across the country, a scenario the government seems poised to re­peat with the current backlog.

“We also are a little bit late, and the Finance Ministry is a little bit late,” Dr Kuyseang Te, director gen­­eral of administration and fi­nance for the Ministry of Health, said Monday.

“But I think [the drugs will arrive] sooner than previous” years, he added.

Ideally, the drugs—ranging from paracetamol to antibiotics—should be delivered to the country by private suppliers by the end of this year, to be ready for delivery to the provinces in early 2005. However, delays in the procurement process look to push their arrival back several months.

The ministry has not yet called for drug suppliers to bid on the first half of the year’s $16 million order of essential medicines. Once bids are solicited, it takes another sev­en to eight months to procure the drugs—if the process goes smoothly, said Chroeng Sokhan, vice director of the ministry’s De­partment of Drugs and Food.

“But it never happens with Cambodian tenders,” he said.

The Ministry of Health submitted its bidding criteria Friday to the Ministry of Finance, which must stamp its approval before the Health Ministry can advertise bids in local newspapers.

Chhay Vuth, director of the Fi­nance Ministry’s Department of Public Procurement, said he had not received the bidding criteria from the Ministry of Health.

Stock shortages in the national med­icine chest could harm pa­tients, said Dr Kosuke Okada, chief adviser to the Japanese and Cambodian governments’ joint tuberculosis control program.

“[We] cannot neglect” the im­pact of such a delay, he said Mon­day.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)

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