The people of Uganda put National Medical Stores in place through an Act of Parliament and gave it a three-fold mandate: to Procure, Warehouse and Distribute Essential Medicines and Medical Supplies, primarily to Government health facilities.
We have tried our best to fulfill the aspirations of the framers of the NMS Act of 1993. This has been achieved by crystallizing the mandate, which is clearly stated in the law, and by also involving our major stakeholders, getting their input whenever we are designing processes that are employed to deliver the mandate.
NMS has further crystallized this mandate to focus on major deliverables. One is to ensure that we stock all the essential medicines and medical supplies that the health facilities have quantified through their procurement plans, against the available budget. The second deliverable is to ensure that we deliver to these health facilities as indicated in our published Delivery Schedule.
The Delivery Schedule is our manifesto to our clients, our social contract with the health facilities in the sense that if they give us their order by the order deadline indicated in this Delivery Schedule, NMS undertakes to deliver to them the medicines and medical supplies by the delivery deadline that is stated in it. This has increased transparency in our service to the health facilities and has also made monitoring of this service easy for everybody, both in the health sector and also among other stakeholders. Medicines availability is a concern of almost everybody in the country- rich or poor, young or old, all interface at the point of medicines. The feedback from every concerned stakeholder is valuable to NMS, as we continually devise means of improving our service to them.
NMS has had a number of innovations over time, and they have been responsible for its success: we are always listening to the people, always analysing our challenges and innovating to respond to them. We believe that so far we have succeeded to a good extent. About 10 years ago, we had availability of medicines in Government health facilities (independently accessed by MOH and partners) -which is a critical indicator- at a paltry 21% in the 2009/2010 FY. A few years down the road we are now seeing the availability at more than 85% in the 2017/2018 FY, and we are convinced we can improve on that. Indeed, for the future, we look forward to having a bigger capacity to fulfill our mission and mandate. We believe our new warehouse shall be completed by the end of this financial year (2018/19). With its bigger capacity, the warehouse shall accommodate everything that our health facilities will need for a number of years ahead. We continue to further build the capacity of our staff, and enable them to better appreciate the needs of the people that we serve, rallying them to better deliver on our mandate.
Automating all our processes is another initiative in the offing. Currently, a number of our processes, especially the way we receive and process orders from the over 3000 facilities we serve, will soon be automated, so that from the comfort of the health facility the health worker can place an order and we receive it in seconds. Visibility and transparency will not be the only benefits to this, but major stakeholders will be able to interface with NMS instantly and get the information they need.
There are even more radical initiatives planned: should the laws be amended and the resources provided, we will also venture into serving more than government health facilities. The capacity we have built is to the point that we can do so much more, and there are a number of private sector gaps that we feel we can better serve. We thus know we can extend service gaps beyond vaccines. We believe we can leverage that, and generate resources that would further reduce funding gaps for medicines in public health facilities. In the meantime, we shall continue to increase medicine availability, and indeed intend to raise it to about 90%.
We know we have the capacity, and in the next 1-2 years we will move beyond the present 85% availability. We cannot achieve this alone, and are thus calling upon the rest of the general population to meet government efforts half way: that much as we at NMS shall be working on improving the processes on the supply side, we will also be asking every Ugandan to work on the demand side, through prevention of the diseases that need the medicines. This includes eating healthy foods, washing their hands with soap before eating and after using the
toilet, sleeping under insecticide treated mosquito nets, exercising regularly and wearing safety belts and helmets when in cars or on motorbikes respectively.
When the general population reduces on the demand, and NMS increases the supply, we will definitely meet halfway, and NMS shall reach the 100% target much earlier than anticipated. The message I leave with Ugandans is one of hope, that as Government we are doing all that is within our means to fulfill the mandate that the people of Uganda gave to us through the law. We will also not get tired of reminding all Ugandans to take up preventive messages very seriously as it is the cheapest and most sustainable means of keeping healthy. That way we shall meet halfway, and deliver better and faster for the people of Uganda.
I thank you.
NMS General Manager/CEO