Modernizing Uganda’s National Medical Stores

24th September 2009

Recent weeks have seen many changes in Uganda’s National Medical Stores (NMS). For the first time in three years, NMS delivered medicines to the two National Referral Hospitals. Additionally, the Ugandan Parliament expanded the mandate of the NMS. Finally, the NMS is improving its infrastructure and efficiency through support from DANIDA and USAID.

The National Referral Hospitals stopped buying drugs from NMS because of shortages and stock-outs. Now, the NMS is not only able to supply the hospitals with their full order, but is also delivering drugs embossed with the official government stamp, making it harder for these drugs to reach the black market. In 2008, stock levels at NMS were at 40%, now 80% of essential drugs are available in appropriate quantities, with 100% availability predicted before the end of 2009. 

Parliament approved a larger budget for NMS, new policies for financing procurement, and increased the ratio of drugs NMS supplies to public health centers. Through this new policy, the Ministry of Finance will deliver funds directly to NMS, allowing NMS to cut out middlemen and pay suppliers directly. Beginning in October, NMS will supply 70% of drugs for public health centers, with the remaining 30% to be supplied by districts. 

A modern medical storage facility is being commissioned, with support from the Dutch government through DANIDA; this facility will be the largest medical stores in East and Central Africa. New delivery trucks are being ordered and shift work is being implemented in the NMS to ensure continual preparation for storage and delivery. Additionally, with the support of USAID, a new management information system and gravity racks have been installed. 

The benefits of these developments include improved management of stocks and faster processing and delivery times for government health facilities. However, NMS will face challenges in coping with its larger mandate, timely ordering of supplies, and working with health centers to ensure the security of delivered stocks. 

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