Increasing Access to Medicines in Uganda

Increasing Access to Medicines in Uganda

Uganda's Koboko health center IV store: Left, boxes of medicine and supplies piled in a store room before the SURE program's capacity building training. Right, Lebu Akim, stores assistant, in the newly organized medicine and supplies room. {Photo credits: Jimmy Ondoma/MSH.}Photo credits: Jimmy Ondoma/MSH.

Over the years, the Koboko health centre IV located in the West Nile region of Uganda has experienced challenges in the management of essential medicines and health supplies. Stock-outs of vital medicines were widespread, while huge quantities of slow-moving medicines were at risk of expiring. These problems were attributed to health workers’ poor skills in logistics management. In addition, there a was lack of reliable information to guide staff on when and what to order since stock cards were not regularly updated.

In July 2011, USAID's Securing Ugandans’ Right to Essential Medicines (SURE) program, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), began capacity-building activities aimed at strengthening essential medicines and health supplies systems at health facilities in the region. SURE has used the supervision, performance assessment, and recognition approach in 45 districts in Uganda. This approach involves mentoring and coaching pharmacy and stores’ staff at private not-for-profit and public health facilities in medicines management.

In the last six months, Lebu Akim, a stores assistant at Koboko health centre IV, underwent two sessions of mentoring and coaching by the medicines management supervisor trained by the SURE program. This provided him with knowledge and skills to better manage medicines and supplies at the facility.

“Our system for stock management has improved. We update our stock cards regularly and carry out a physical count every month which we never used to do in the past. Our orders are based on consumption and we keep enough stock to last up to the next delivery,” says Lebu.

SURE assessed the facility’s performance after the third supervisory visit in January of this year. The assessment was based on medicines management indicators that included measurement of storage quality, use of stock cards, appropriate availability of vital and non-vital medicines, and dispensing quality.

The results showed the health facility’s overall performance was improving in stock management, storage management, ordering, and reporting.

The facility and the people who manage the essential medicines and supplies are a shining example of improvement in medicines management resulting in increased access to vital medicines by the population.

Julian Natukunda is communications assistant of the MSH-led Securing Ugandans' Right to Essential Medicines (SURE) Program. SURE builds capacity in medicines management through mentoring and coaching selected health workers in eight districts in Northern and West Nile regions of Uganda.