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‘Up budget to tackle medicine shortage crisis’

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Bid to add housewives, elderly to ‘Afia’

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 6: At a time the medicine shortage crisis in public health facilities continues to cast a shadow on the Ministry of Health’s performance, it appears that the budget for medicines should be increased in order to solve the crisis, reports Al-Qabas daily quoting sources. Sources pointed out that a part of the KD520 million budget for fiscal 2021/2022 was used to settle previous invoices for medicines procured through local companies; hence, the difficulty in making new orders for medicines. Sources revealed the current budget must be increased by KD200 million to KD250 million to overcome challenges and obstacles to the procurement of medicines.

Sources said the annual budget for medicines increased from KD490 million to KD520 million; but it is still insufficient due to population growth, and the establishment of new hospitals and health centers that must be supplied with all kinds of medicines, medical supplies and tests for laboratories before their opening. Sources stressed the importance of overcoming obstacles to the approval of requests for medicines and medical supplies by the regulatory authorities, especially with regard to eliminating bureaucracy and necessary approvals for the supply of different medicines. Sources warned the delayed procurement of medicines could impede the progress of certain treatment protocols for patients.

Sources cited a number of challenges in the import of medicines, particularly the small quantities that reach the country, compared to the quantities ordered from international companies and local agents. Sources said: “If you order 100,000 packages of a specific drug class; you will get only 20,000 from abroad. This is in addition to the repercussions of the corona pandemic that continue to affect global factories; Russian-Ukrainian war; and increase in pharmaceutical manufacturing, global shipping and transportation costs.”

Meanwhile, according to parliamentary sources, the estimated cost of treatment for housewives and perhaps the elderly, to be included in the “Afia” health insurance for retirees will amount to KD 408 million. This includes KD 306 million for the cost of treating housewives, whose number is about 18,000, and KD 102 million to cover the cost of treating the elderly, whose number is about 6,000.

It is likely that the Ministry of Health will present the estimated treatment cost at the next meeting of the parliament’s Health Committee, reports Al-Rai daily. They explained that the issue of adding new segments to the Afia program is still the subject of consultations for the calculations of treatment coverage. Even though the last meeting took place on Thursday and was attended by the minister of Health and the staff of the Ministry of Health, the matter was not resolved, but the door was left open. The Ministry of Health promised to hold other meetings to arrive at a conclusion, which will include a consensual formula and a cost study, in case any new segment is added to the Afia program.

The spokesperson of the parliament’s Health Committee MP Hani Shams said, “The meeting discussed the details of the distribution of Afia insurance amounts and the aspects it includes. There are aspects that the patient needs and other aspects that are not needed.” He highlighted the importance of studying these aspects.

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