What does NMS do?
The role of NMS is stipulated in the mandate that is provided for in the NMS Act which is to procure, store and distribute essential medicines and other medical supplies to public health facilities.
So we have to ensure that all these institutions get the medicines and essential medical supplies in line with the budget allocated to them by the Parliament of Uganda.
So what tangible achievements has NMS recorded for the last 20 years?
One of our latest achievements has been our logistics contribution to the increase of coverage of immunisation in this country from 52% a few years ago to 98% in Financial Year 2012/13. To us, this is a very big achievement. We moved with government
on the issue of recentralising the funding of NMS which made it possible for NMS not to go around borrowing money from banks.
We were able to emboss all the medicines so that the public can easily identify government medicines and other medical supplies. We have improved our fleet capacity with one of the modern cold chain fleet as recently confirmed by GAVI.
We have been able to use Fleet Management System to track our vehicles. We have also improved our IT in our Warehouse…we can now easily monitor online whatever is happening in the store.
We have also been able to get closer to customers we serve; our headquarters are in Entebbe but we have created seven regional customercare offices in Kampala, Soroti, Mbarara, Mbale, Kabarole, Hoima and Gulu. We will add more two in Arua and Moroto by July 2014. We have been able to serve well the special categories like UPDF, the Police and Prison facilities, Cancer Institute, Mulago Hospital, Heart Institute, and Uganda Blood Transfusion Services.
We have trained our employees to give their best in whatever they do. Currently we employ close to 190 people across the country. You can imagine when we were handling 30% of the work, we had 96 workers and today after our output multiplying the handling by 11 fold, our staff have only grown by two fold. So we have been efficient when it comes to using our staff. We have introduced a night shift to better utilize resources that we have. So the first shift runs from 8am to 5pm and the other runs from 8pm to 5am in the
What are the major challenges facing NMS and how are you managing them?
The first challenge we had was when the funding was decentralised to health facilities and districts and NMS did not have enough capitalisation and as a result we had to borrow from banks and pay interest. It was a difficult time because we were working like a private facility. In the past 3-4 years, government had to recentralise funding and now capitalisation is no longer an issue.
The other challenge was the PPDA process which cost us time when it came to procuring medicines and other medical supplies but government in 2013 amended the law that allows us to procure medicines and other medical supplies much faster. The lack of well trained personnel on medicine quantification, medicine ordering and management is another challenge. The few health workers who are in our health facilities are not skilled enough. NMS is always ready to receive their orders but sometimes we get them late and a number of these orders are not of good quality. We have been urging government to recruit more trained health workers and re-train them so they know more about their work.
There has also been theft of medicines and other medical supplies which end up in private clinics/pharmacies and others have been found in neighboring countries especially Eastern Congo and South Sudan. NMS contribution to dealing with problem has been to ensure that all these medicines and medical supplies meant for government health facilities are embossed.
We also lack space in our store since our mandate has grown 11 times in terms of volumes handled in the past
five or more years. NMS is working with government and development partners to
expand our warehouse space. We are currently dealing with over 2, 800 health facilities
across the country.
What is your relationship with other players in the private sector and what impact have they created on your operations?
We have Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) under an innovation called “The Last Mile”. Traditionally we would deliver the medicines at the District Health Officers’(DHO) office for the districts to deliver them to health facilities but because the districts lacked funding and transportation, the items would not be delivered in time. Four years ago, NMS took that function from them where we now deliver the medicines to the DHO's Office and then hand it over to private transporters. We give them a maximum of seven days to deliver the medicines and they are doing it very well. We are also partnering with the private sector when it comes to purchase of medicine and other related items because we do not manufacture medicines as government.
We also have PPPs in areas to do with the loading of medicines and other medical supplies on trucks, canteen services, cleaning among others. But in future we are looking towards exploring more technical PPPs when we expand our warehouse.
What is your general assessment of the health sector?
The health sector is not as robust as we would want it. The sector has three or four major inputs; these are the infrastructure (health facilities), human resource (health workers), medicines and other medical supplies, and human resource that does the coordination of these inputs. Recently we have made significant progress in those areas but we need major repairs in many hospitals to make them function better.
Government has recruited more health workers recently but we will need to add more and ensure they work for the hours we pay them for. We also need a more robust management and oversight function in the health sector. The public should act on the prevention measures of most of these diseases so that we don’t put pressure on the entire healthcare system.
Going forward, what are your major plans at NMS?
To better and use more IT capabilities in future. We need not to wait for an order to come from the health facility but we should be able to monitor directly the stock from the centre and be able to cut on the physical movements of the paperwork. We also want to link our system to our suppliers so that they (suppliers) do not have to wait for an order from us. We should be able to do this electronically. Like I said, we intend to expand our warehouse and open two more customer care centres across the country.
Where do you want to see the National Store in the next few years?
It is going to be, if everything goes according to plan the best Warehouse in this part of the World-Africa…We want it to be the Centre of excellence in medical logistics and we are on schedule in achieving this in the near future.