January 30, 2009
Hospital officials want tighter inventory control

Wastage galore! That is what a comprehensive inventory being conducted at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital is revealing.{{more}}

Sacks of rock hard, wood lice-infested milk, boxes of surgical sutures that expired since November 2001, disintegrating gloves and surgical gowns are just some of the thousands of dollars worth of supplies discovered that never made their way into the hospital system.

“We have been having issues about supplies management at the hospital. The supply management system has not been working,” is the nice way that Permanent Secretary (ag) in the Ministry of Health Lanceford Weekes put it.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that the problem that has existed for years came to a head recently when an order was made for sheets because the hospital had supposedly run out.

Weekes said that institutional arrangements were made to get the sheets, only for the inventory to reveal 200 sheets in stock, which have never been used.

In October of 2007, two months into his appointment, Hospital Administrator Fitzroy Jones told SEARCHLIGHT in an exclusive interview that greater inventory control

was needed.

At the time Jones was responding to questions raised by SEARCHLIGHT regarding incidents of theft of supplies and food stuff that was bleeding the hospital dry.

“Stealing is an extremely serious problem, and it has to be dealt with. We desperately need greater inventory control,” Jones told SEARCHLIGHT back then.

As he showed SEARCHLIGHT the sacks of rotten milk that never got to the patients they were intended to feed, Jones said that closer inventory management has been instituted and it is bearing fruit.

Jones said that in addition to managing the supplies, he believes that persons are thinking twice of stealing, because they know they are being watched.

He said that these days, the food bill is lining up better to the occupancy at the hospital and the market prices, and fluctuations in the bill can better be explained.

During the Government Symposium on 2009’s fiscal programme last Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that it was important that government ministries get the little things right.

He alluded to the problem of theft at the hospital and the inadequate supplies management that led to the sheet order mix-up, as areas that must be improved if the country is to continue to develop amidst the external challenges it faces – challenges that it has no control over.

Meanwhile, Weekes told SEARCHLIGHT that he is not going to castigate anyone with respect to the supplies management of the hospital, but said that the matter will be dealt with thoroughly once the inventory is completed.