De Lima slams DOH for COA report on ‘expired, overstocked’ drugs

Published October 8, 2020, 4:24 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday said she is enraged at the Department of Health (DOH) for the P2.2-billion worth of expired, nearly expired or overstocked drugs and other supplies state auditors have found in its inventory. 

Senator Leila de Lima (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“It is enraging, as it is a cause of serious concern to learn of the COA (Commission on Audit) report revealing that the DOH has approximately P2.2-billion in expired, nearly expired or overstocked drugs, medicines and other supplies in its inventory,” De Lima said in a statement.

In a press briefing last October 7, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that all nearly expired medicines were already distributed. She referred to an official DOH statement that read:

“The DOH emphasized that the CY (calendar year) 2019 COA-Consolidated Annual Audit Report (CAAR) on which these articles were based was for CY 2019, which means this only covers the period of January to December 2019, adding that the current status of the DOH Central Office figures is now different,” the agency said in a statement.

“This level of mismanagement and inefficiency from the principal agency mandated to safeguard public health is completely unacceptable! It would have been bad enough if this happened without the specter of the worse public health emergency in living memory looming over us, but these negligent acts are further compounded with a crisis of this magnitude,” the senator lamented. 

The COA report showed that the expiring medicines accounted for P29.95-million, the overstocked items for P1.144-billion and the nearly expired drugs cost P1.024-billion. 

COA attributed DOH’s problem to “poor procurement planning, inefficient and uncoordinated transfer or distribution, and lack of monitoring and proper storage.”

De Lima said she cannot accept the fact that these much-need “lifelines” were left to rot while thousands of sick Filipinos wait for hours in line begging for medical assistance. 

“The DOH’s margin for error is practically non-existent as the country continues to record thousands of new COVID-19 cases a day, yet they continue to operate as if peoples’ lives do not depend on the prompt delivery and distribution of medicines and other medical supplies and services,” she pointed out.

However, she said this is not the first time this has happened as the COA had already flagged the DOH for similar acts of negligence in 2019.

“This suggests that the problems are systemic and thus, deeply rooted in our public health institution,” she stressed. 

De Lima said the DOH, under the leadership of Secretary Francisco Duque III, ought to fix this issue and to be prudent in spending government funds.

“This is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sagad na sagad na ang pasensya ng taumbayan. Dapat itong imbestigahan. Managot ang dapat managot (the people are fed up. This issue should be investigated. Those who are responsible for this mess should be held liable),” the detained senator said.

De Lima’s charges came after a high-ranking DOH official clarified the matter in an earlier press briefing.

In a press briefing last October 7, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that all nearly expired medicines were already distributed. She referred to an official DOH statement that read:

“The DOH emphasized that the CY (calendar year) 2019 COA-Consolidated Annual Audit Report (CAAR) on which these articles were based was for CY 2019, which means this only covers the period of January to December 2019, adding that the current status of the DOH Central Office figures is now different,” the agency said in a statement. (with a report from Analou de Vera)

 
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