Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday slammed the Department of Health (DOH) “wastage” of government funds and medicines.
Recto lamented the Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2019 report finding that around P2.2 billion worth of expired, nearly expired and overstocked medicines, medical and supplies have been languishing in DOH warehouses and storage facilities.
“Any doctor will tell you never to take expired medicine, but here the DOH is leading the way in letting taxpayer-bought medicines expire in bulk,” the Senate leader said in his statement.
“In a nation where many resort to halving tablets for lack of money to buy the full prescribed dosage, the recently-released 2019 COA report that P2.2 billion worth of expired and about to expire drugs were languishing in DOH-run stockrooms is like being sutured without anaesthesia,” he added.
“The expired drugs include those for oral health. With 9 in 10 Filipinos suffering from tooth decay and only one in 10 able to afford to see a dentist once a year, this news is as painful as a root canal,” he pointed out.
He also said: “Ordinarily, an undisturbed medicine cabinet is good news because it means no one has any need for any of its contents. But Filipinos are medicine-poor. Surely the 371 Filipinos who die daily from heart and hypertensive diseases and the 88 who succumb to diabetes every 24 hours need help.”
In its report, the state auditor said the piling up of expired, overstocked and nearly expired items was a result of “poor” procurement planning, monitoring, storage and management of the goods.
These show the DOH’s “excessive expenditure since the items were procure more than what is needed”, the COA said.
To prevent its repeat, Recto said the Senate, in tackling the proposed 2021 national budget, should include a special provision in the DOH’s allocation which enumerates guidelines and will make sure that medicines procured will end up with patients.
Recto said that under the executive department’s suggested spending plan for 2021, P28.64 billion was proposed for the DOH’s procurement of drugs. This was higher that the P19.09 billion appropriated to the agency budget for the same purpose.
Aside from these, the DOH has also requested for P486 million for “Procurement and Supply Chain Management Service” for 2021.
“We need a fast-acting relief from what has become a procurement sickness of this department so that drugs bought this year and next year will not be wasted,” he said.
“We have almost 48 billion reasons to be worried,” he said, alluding to that total amount of the DOH’s drug purchase budget. “Kailangan ng bakuna laban sa pagsasayang ng gamot (There should be a vaccine against the wastage of medicines).”
The Senate finance committee is scheduled to deliberate on the DOH’s proposed 2021 budget on Friday, October 9.