Current Affairs, Weekly Highlights

Ministry of Health (MOH) Must Intervene in Worsening Medicine Shortage

The Federal Government and the Ministry of Health(MOH) must intervene immediately in supplying sufficient medication to all healthcare facilities in Sarawak and even other States to ensure quality of care to patients especially to our children are not disrupted.

This is in view of the report from a Paediatric Specialist Clinic in Miri that cannot conduct physical therapy to treat children with asthma such as Ventolin, common fever, cough, and cold, as his medicine stocks are due to run out completely. 
The Doctor informed since a week ago that all of his various sources of medications from either his supplier or the local pharmacy are already out of stock — the first time he is facing a medicine shortage in the three decades of operating his clinic. 
He added that he has run out of ventolin nebules and ventolin solutions to treat asthma for more than two weeks. And based on the report, many other Paediatric GPs are facing the same issue and even our Deputy Premier Dr Sim Kui Hian has confirmed that some private clinics in the city of Miri have already stopped seeing patients after their medicine supplies ran out. 

This is a “serious medical predicament” or even possibly a crisis if not dealt with immediately as our patients will continue to suffer and in worst case scenario may lead up to unwanted consequences as some of these conditions are life-threatening if the patients are unable to obtain the necessary medications immediately. 

Since last week I have warned that this issue is slowly rippling through the system now, and it’s only a matter of time before the public really feels it, especially once the stockpiles are gone, including generic drugs, then it may be too late to do anything. 

I then urged MOH to urgently interfere in this matter to protect the “medical security of our country” due to the disruption of our medicine supplies all around the country. The seriousness of the issue was first downplayed by the Deputy Health Minister but confirmed by the Health Minister himself who admitted that there is a shortage of medicines especially in the private sector. 
This is a serious issue which deserve immediate attention. 

In short term MOH must do an extensive audit and stock count of all pharmaceutical stocks both public and private health facilities to understand the full extent of the country’s medicine shortage.  Such supplies should then be properly distributed nationwide based on needs like a “ring strategy” to ensure areas of highest needs will get the needed supplies. 

A private-public sharing mechanism to cut all necessary bureaucracy should be developed since the Minister mentioned that medication in the public sector of government clinics are sufficient. There could be a mechanism where the public facilities can either sell or loan drug supplies to fill in gap at the private sector as well until they receive their supplies. 

Maybe for certain critical medications, there could be a mechanism where private healthcare professionals can write prescription for those essential medication which patients can immediately claim or even purchase at a government pharmacy without going through the whole referral process and consultation process at government clinic to cut down on the congestion in those clinics. 

In order for this happen, a genetic type of prescription pad and prescription format must only be used to regulate it properly to enable the public sector to accept even prescription from private sector. On top of that, after the extensive audit of medical stocks, there should be a system where prescriber can see where the stocks are available and list down the places so they know where to refer patients to. 

This is no ordinary medicine shortage and immediate actions has to be taken. That is why since the beginning I urged MOH for a clear policy to address the current shortage of medicines on top of a longer-term “national medicine security strategy” to be devised to prevent future drug shortages in Malaysia, given the country’s current vulnerable position as a net importer of pharmaceutical products. 

Do not let our patients including our children suffer especially when there is no pro-active measure to foresee this issue and properly implement a mechanism and plan to address it holistically.

Dr Kelvin Yii

MP for Bandar Kuching

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