Taita Taveta County health officials were at pains to justify the setting up of a central store from where drugs will distributed to facilities in the region.
The ward reps, who had summoned Health County Chief Officer Philomena Kirote and other senior health officials, said that the county drugs storage facility located in Wundanyi town had not been inspected by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and was, therefore, unfit for storage of drugs.
The ward reps accused Governor Granton Samboja's administration of disregarding four drug storage facilities at the Voi County Referral, Wesu, Mwambirwa and Taveta Sub-County hospitals.
“There are some drugs like insulin for diabetes that are supposed to be kept inside a refrigerated storage facility. The executive is playing with the lives of the people,” Kaloleni ward rep Ahmed Omar told the county assembly on Tuesday.
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Frank Mmare, the Assembly Health Committee chairperson, said that public health facilities are yet to receive drugs worth more than Sh49 million recently procured by the county administration.
“It is now two weeks since the executive procured drugs, which are yet to reach the targeted health facilities. Pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical drugs must be separated to avoid compromising the lives of the local community,” said Mmare.
“There are cold storage facilities for drugs in Voi County Referral, Wesu, Mwambirwa and Taveta Sub-County hospitals but these have been ignored. There is a risk of the drugs getting contaminated (at the Wudanyi facility) due to poor storage conditions,” he said.
But the health department officials denied that the Wundanyi drug store had not been inspected. Ms Kirote told the ward reps that the county pharmaceutical technologist had certified the centralised drug store whose aim is to control the flow of drugs and avoid theft.
“It is possible to coordinate the distribution of drugs from one central place, we are currently distributing drugs on a need basis,” she told the ward reps.
She, however, admitted that the PPB was yet to inspect the new store and that some drugs might need specialised storage.
“The board is responsible for the inspection of the drugs store but it is yet to do so, and it is true that some drugs must be refrigerated,” she told the ward reps.
She promised that all of the county's 62 health facilities will get drugs.
“We have enough vehicles to distribute the procured drugs. The centralised store is for accountability and transparency purposes,” said Ms Kirote.
But the ward reps insisted that the store has to be inspected PPB and certified, and that the distribution system was not working.
“The truth of the matter is that there are no drugs in public hospitals because the distribution is poor at the main drug storage,” said Mmare.
The tug of war between the two arms of the county government comes at a time when the county is still grappling with shortage of drugs, personnel and rampant theft.
A total of 343 casual health workers have been sacked so far, compounding the crisis.
Last week, the county executive yielded to pressure from ward reps, members of the public and the public service board and cancelled transfers of dozens of drivers deployed to public hospitals as cleaners.