The people of Uganda put National Medical Stores (NMS) in place through an Act of Parliament and gave it a three-fold mandate: to procure, warehouse and distribute essential medicines and medical supplies, primarily to government health facilities.
We have further crystallized this mandate to focus on major deliverables. One is to ensure that we stock all the essential medicines and medical supplies that the health facilities have quantified through their procurement plans, against the available budget. The second deliverable is to ensure that we deliver to these health facilities as indicated in our published delivery schedule.
The delivery schedule is our manifesto to our clients, our social contract with the health facilities in the sense that if they give us their order by the order deadline indicated in this delivery schedule, we undertake to deliver to them the medicines and medical supplies by the time that is stated in it.
For the record, NMS now delivers medicine and medical supplies to national, regional and general hospitals monthly and once every two months to lower health facilities (health center 1Vs, health center IIIs and health center IIs)
Medicines availability is a concern of almost everybody in the country - rich or poor, young or old. The feedback from every concerned stakeholder is valuable to us as we continually devise means of improving our service to them.
About 10 years ago, we had availability of medicines in government health facilities at a paltry 21 per cent in the 2009/2010 financial year. A few years down the road we are now seeing the availability at more than 85 per cent in the 2018/2019 FY, and we are convinced we can improve on that achievement.
Indeed, for the future, we look forward to having a bigger capacity to fulfill our mandate. We believe our new modern warehouse, which is currently under construction at Kajjansi, along Entebbe road, will soon be completed. With its bigger capacity, the warehouse shall accommodate bigger quantities that our health facilities will need for a number of years to come. We continue to build the capacity of our staff and enable them to better appreciate the needs of the people that we serve, rallying them to better deliver on our mandate.
Automating all our processes is another initiative in the offing. This new development involves the implementation of an industry-leading Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system which we have “baptized” as NMS+ to transform our operations, allowing us to achieve operational excellence and improve productivity while meeting our customers’ expectations.
Currently, a number of our processes are manual, especially the way we receive and process orders from the over 3,000 facilities we serve. This will soon be automated, so that from the comfort of the health facility, the health worker can place an order and we receive it in seconds. Visibility and transparency will not be the only benefits to this, but major stakeholders will be able to interface with us regularly and get the information they need for better decision-making.
NMS cannot accomplish this alone, and are thus calling upon the general population to meet government efforts halfway: that much as we at NMS shall be working on improving the processes on the supply side of need for medicine, we are also asking every Ugandan to work on the demand side, through prevention of the diseases that need the medicines. This includes eating healthy foods, washing their hands with soap before eating and after using the toilet, sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets, exercising regularly and wearing safety belts and helmets when in cars or on motorbikes respectively.
When the general population reduces on the demand, and NMS increases the supply, we will definitely meet halfway, and medicine availability will reach a much higher level sooner.
The writer is the public relations officer, National Medical Stores.