The medical depot in Phuentsholing is facing space constraint as the annual supply, an average of 95 percent of medical supplies for all the dzongkhags, gets delivered to the depot. Another issue is that the depot is not located in a safe place.
The tendering process for the medical supplies happens at one time around May and June, and it takes three months for the stocks to reach Bhutan. All the medical supplies come in the peak season of October, November and December. The huge quantity of supplies takes up every bit of the space. At times, the bulk medical supplies are kept in the trucks for many days until the space frees up.
The medical supplies are directly sent to bigger hospitals after quality inspection by health ministry is done in approximately 10 days. The quality inspection team comes from various health facilities wherever there are technical experts. An official from Medical Supplies Distribution Division (MSDD) in Phuentsholing said all the supplies, drugs and non-drugs, are segregated, which require space. The items that are not inspected yet have to be kept it in a separate place, and those items, which are tested, are placed separately. The whole area in the depot is occupied, starting from quarantine area and there is hardly any spaces left, said the official.
The official said the supplies for the whole of Bhutan come at once as most of the suppliers deliver just one or two days ahead of the deadline since they also depend on the outside suppliers.
There are bulk supplies, especially normal saline and IV fluids, which comes in huge quantities, in almost four or five jumbo trucks. There is no space to store supplies and without doing quality inspection, the center cannot even distribute the supplies to respective health institutions, the official added.
Medical supply depot in Phuentsholing is divided into three stores for drugs and non-drugs, which includes equipment, syringes, gloves, etc. Currently, the depot is dispatching the bulk supplies to health facilities wherever there is a requirement.
The ministry is exploring on constructing three buffer stores in western Bhutan, Gelephu and Mongar, and also looking for ways to create more space in the medical depot in Phuentsholing.
“We have identified the places, and are now looking at the manpower requirement. And if we get budget, we want to construct a separate infrastructure,” said the official.
The official said that the buffer stores will lessen the strain on the depot in Phuentsholing. Around 50 percent of the buffer stock can be stored in Phuentsholing depot and rest can be sent directly to those destinations, the official said.
Roughly about Nu 220 million (mn) is spent on drugs and about Nu 500 mn on non-drugs every year.
There are also cases where many health-in-charge from various hospitals submit complaint reports to the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) about the bad quality of medicines received.
DRA immediately sends the sample for quality testing to competent labs, some are even sent abroad to Bangkok, Thailand. If the products are found to be inferior then DRA recalls the products. However, there are cases where the patients have already consumed the inferior quality medicines while awaiting for the quality report.