KINGSTON — As the National Health Fund (NHF) officially takes over operations of the Health Corporation Limited (HCL) on April 1, the Fund's Chief Executive Officer, Hugh Lawson, is assuring suppliers of pharmaceutical goods and medical sundries that existing contracts will be honoured.
He was speaking at a meeting convened by the Ministry of Health at the Altamont Court Hotel, in New Kingston on March 30, where he guaranteed the continuation of business relations under the new NHF management.
“You can be assured of the highest standard of service from the NHF as we prepare to manage the affairs of HCL procurement, distribution, and warehouse divisions,” he said.
Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, announced the integration of HCL into the operations of the NHF last November, as he piloted amendments to the NHF Act to effect the change, in the House of Representatives. The move, he said, was to make the procurement, warehousing, and distribution of pharmaceutical goods and medical sundries more efficient and cost effective.
Thursday, March 31, marked the final day of official operations under the business name, Health Corporation Limited.
While functions and processes will remain the same, Mr. Lawson informed that within the next six months there will be a review of various steps regarding procurement, to ensure efficient operations.
“The NHF will be looking at the best process to (ensure) the best value for you, our distributors and ourselves. We have to drive efficiency to the level that the Ministry of Health is demanding of us,” he said.
Minister Spencer, in a report delivered by Acting Director for the Policy, Planning and Development Division of the Ministry, Sandra Graham, explained that the merger was based on the results of two independent studies conducted between 2007 and 2009, to review the operations of the NHF and HCL with regard to arrangements and models of procurement, among other issues.
The findings highlighted a weak inventory management system and duplication of functions by the NHF and the HCL and recommendations were made to streamline specific aspects of the pharmaceutical system in the public sector and to strengthen inventory management.
The amendment to the NHF Act was passed on February 18, 2011, making the NHF responsible for procuring, warehousing, and distributing, medical supplies for Government-owned health facilities.
MoH Legal Services Department Representative, Netricia Miller, informed that except for a few administrative changes, contracts will continue under the same terms and conditions. The NHF, she informed, would continue the administration of pharmaceutical and medical sundries contracts up to their expiration in October 2011 and May 2012, respectively.
Principal Finance Officer at the MoH, Michael Maragh, told the suppliers that the Ministry will honour payments. “The Ministry of Health, as the main provider of finance, will ensure that NHF is paid, so that in turn, you can also be paid,” he stated.
Managing Director of HCL, Yvette Martin, expressed appreciation to the suppliers, thanking them for their cooperation over the past 17 years.
“Although not always smooth, we have managed to pass through all those hurdles together. Through times when there were financial challenges, because of your cooperation, we were still able to provide those needed goods to the public sector,” she said.
By LATOYA PENNANT, JIS PR Officer