As complaints about the public healthcare sector continue to mount, retired MP Hilson “Brother B” Baptiste says the Government’s procurement of pharmaceuticals needs to be investigated.
Baptiste, who served as a minister in the United Progressive Party (UPP) Administration, was referring to residents’ inability to acquire life-saving medication at the hospital and from the pharmacies operated by the Medical Benefits Scheme.
On a daily basis, callers have been flooding the airways and expressing dismay about their unfilled prescriptions, while some report that they are unable to have lab tests done at the public hospital.
Others are claiming that a particular machine is out of service, or their appointment date is too far off, and their condition could worsen during the wait.
At the moment, a particular medication for lupus patients and several brands to treat hypertension are not available at the MBS or the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre.
Patients say they have been instructed to check private pharmacies, prompting many to bemoan the cost, since some are pensioners and others are unemployed.
In light of this situation, Baptiste is asking who is responsible for purchasing medications for the Government. He is inquiring, too, about a prior arrangement in which the sub-region pooled resources to purchase drugs at a discounted price through the Caribbean Pharmaceutical Company.
Baptiste says he is highly suspicious that some hanky-panky is taking place and another self-enrichment scheme is underway.
Accordingly, he says this might be the time for another inquiry into the Medical Benefits Scheme to be commissioned.
Baptiste, an MBS beneficiary himself, says there are times he, too, has had to purchase some medicines at a private pharmacy.
Some patients tell REAL News they have been unable to get blood work done in a timely manner since the private labs are “packed up every morning.”
This appears to confirm allegations that the hospital lab is out of reagents, the chemicals necessary for many tests.
Last Monday, at the start of Vaccination Week, nurses told our Newsroom that the Ministry of Health is short of several vaccines. They said that borrowing from St. Kitts is not an option, since Antigua and Barbuda still owes that country for earlier loans of medicines.