Partnering with Guyana’s Ministry of Health to Strengthen Supply Chain Management

{Photo credit: PFSCM.}Photo credit: PFSCM.

Since 2006, the Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) has been working with Guyana’s Ministry of Health to strengthen the supply chain responsible for delivering life-saving medicines. An integral part of Guyana’s Ministry of Health, the Materials Management Unit (MMU), is responsible for managing, storing, and distributing drugs and health commodities to the country’s public health facilities.

SCMS and the MMU are working together to improve warehouse performance and develop a robust logistics management information system, and by 2015, to outsource warehouse and distribution activities to a third-party logistics provider.

State-of-the-art warehouse and adoption of international best practices improves efficiency and availability

With extensive technical guidance from SCMS, the MMU is completely transforming itself. This collaboration has been focused on drastically enhancing the physical MMU facility as well as adopting best practices and international standards for warehouse operations. Together, these changes are yielding tangible improvements in Guyana’s national supply chain and ultimately, in the care that patients can access in Guyana.

The new MMU facility, with its state-of-the-art physical infrastructure, formally opened in March 2013. At nearly 27,000 square meters, the warehouse is large enough that HIV-related drugs and essential medicines can be stored under a single roof, which is more efficient and therefore cost-effective than storing commodities in multiple separate warehouses; for example, streamlined operations have increased availability of essential medicines and decreased waste from expiry.

SCMS is now providing extensive training, capacity building and management support to ensure that MMU processes maximize the capability of this world-class facility. The MMU, with SCMS support, has made a number of improvements with further operational enhancements under way. For example the MMU’s reallocation of staff across different functional areas has significantly reduced the time needed to prepare and dispatch health facilities’ orders. SCMS is also in the process of updating the MMU’s warehouse logistics management information system to ensure that key data points are collected and as a result,  that more accurate inventory management reports can be generated. Finally, SCMS has assisted the MMU in developing a set of performance indicators and collecting key baseline data that will allow the MMU to evaluate progress and address processes that need improvement.

This warehouse is a significant step forward on [the] path [to creating an AIDS-free generation], and toward building Guyana’s world-class pharmaceutical-grade operation.
Eric Goosby, former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Transitioning to a new management model

The Ministry of Health is committed to sustaining the operational improvements realized at the MMU. Recently, SCMS supported an extensive business analysis that assessed different management approaches to ensure sustainability of the MMU as a first-class warehousing facility, even in light of decreased donor funding. The Ministry eventually selected a management model that leverages aspects of private sector warehouse management as a means to further efficiency and sustainability.  This model includes outsourcing key warehousing and distribution functions to one or more private firms that have core competencies in these areas and then compensating them based on performance. This model of drawing on specialized skills and resources from both the private and public sectors is gaining traction across the developing world. Guyana would join countries like Botswana, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Africa that have already outsourced functions within their national supply chains.

Collaboration between the Guyana Ministry of Health and SCMS over the past eight years has laid the foundation for an operationally sustainable, high-performing central warehouse. With the MMU’s new state-of-the-art warehouse and adoption of international best practices, the MOH is in an excellent position to ensure the complete availability not only of HIV/AIDS commodities, but all essential medicines and supplies.

Simon Cole is the SCMS Country Project Director for Guyana. A project of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), SCMS is led by the Partnership for Supply Chain Management and managed in Guyana by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).