The ministry of health has procured 7 oxygen plants, 450 oxygen cylinders, 5 filling stations and other accessories to assist in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic. The decision, according to MoH, was reached after revising specifications and as well undertaking a needs-assessment at the onset of COVID-19 Pandemic in Uganda.
Four (4) of the seven plants have been installed at Mulago National Referral Hospital while the two (2) have been installed at Entebbe Grade B and Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. One (1) has been allocated to Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital. These, according to MoH, are high tech, high volume, high flow and high purity oxygen plants procured to ensure continuous supply of oxygen to patients, which is critical in the management of COVID-19, “as we are now experiencing more patients’ progress from moderate to severe conditions.”
Nevertheless, the ministry has come out to explain why there was a delay in procurement of these Oxygen plants.
This was after a ‘biased’ report by the ministry of finance which highlights that the contract was signed in May 2020 and deliveries and installations had not commenced by September 2020.
In a statement sent to the Red pepper, the ministry attributes the delay in procuring oxygen plants to an increased demand and competition for these commodities—remember Covid-19 is global meaning there is a scramble for best medical equipment to use in its treatment.
“While the Ministry acknowledges that the contract was signed in May 2020, it is important to find out why the delivery and installations had not commenced in the agreed timeline. The general public and the authors of this report are aware that Uganda went into a total lockdown in March 2020 and this greatly affected logistics among others. However, contrary to what the report stated ‘deliveries and installations had not commenced by September 2020’, the plants were delivered in August 2020. The four oxygen plants that were procured for Mulago required additional space, prompting the Ministry to quickly create space for them, hence, the additional required time. As a result, the installation and commissioning processes were finalized early October 2020. Suffice it to note that Mulago National Referral Hospital uses pure piped oxygen (99 -100%),” the ministry clarifies.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) PROCURED AND DISTRIBUTED
The ‘biased’ finance report further states that one of the suppliers for PPEs delivered 3,200 surgical masks expensively at UGX4, 946 each. However, to set the record straight: “The Ministry of Health would like to clarify to the public that there are different types of masks i.e. surgical masks, N95 and non-medical masks which are all priced differently. It is therefore disturbing that the report did not clarify the type of masks that were referred to. For avoidance of doubt, the average market price for N95 is UGX5000. The Ministry of Health purchased it at UGX 4,946 lower than the market price. This price is much cheaper than what the global market offers at UGX. 10,000 for the same mask.”
Contrary to what was stated in the report, MoH further assures Ugandans that all masks supplied met the stands according to the Regulatory Authorities. “If the supplied masks were substandard as the authors state, one wonders how the authors established the quality of the masks when they are not experts in this area, and why the medical personnel who were using these masks in the ICUs were effectively protected from COVID-19. This makes one believe that this was mere hearsay and an inaccurate statement,”MoH wonders.
Accordingly, to-date, a total of nearly 29 Million masks have been delivered to 91districts in the country. This includes: community and student masks. The variation of the price from UGX 1,000 to UGX 2,400 was as a result of the suppliers complaining that the initial price of UGX 1,000 was not enough to cover their costs. This matter, according to MoH, was subsequently discussed in Cabinet and Cabinet approved the variation to UGX 2,400. “The question of quality does not arise, since UNBS was
Involved and certified the specifications for the Masks. Even during procurement, any samples that were found not to be meeting the required standards, were always rejected. On the issue of whether the masks were necessary, the Ministry of Health would like to state that this was necessary, since the use of Masks has been scientifically proven to have a preventive effect in the transmission of COVID-19.Lastly, the delay to complete the procurement and distribution of the masks was due to insufficient funds to undertake these activities.”
MoH has since protested to the ministry of finance over this ‘biased’ report. “We would like to also note that BMAU hurriedly released an incomplete and unsigned report in October 2020 to social media without receiving feedback from the Ministry of Health as it was expected. While the team states in its report that there was physical monitoring of the various interventions, most of their work was done over the phone and also promised to come at a later time to follow up. Even in areas where they did physical verification, information was obtained from junior officers who had little information to provide. The documentary review of the procurement files that was done lacked clarity from contract managers hence the distortions in the report.
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Although monitors are not auditors it would have been courteous for them to share their report for complete feedback as expected. The Ministry of Health only noticed this report circulating on social media which the sector objected to in writing to MOFPED. Instead of sending the report formally, the Commissioner in charge of Planning at the Ministry of Health received an unsigned copy via e-mail. However, to-date the Ministry of Health has never received an authentic and signed copy of this report.”