U.S. Ambassador Thomas F. Daughton remarks on The Milestone of the 50th Health Facility Equipped With The Facility Electronic Stock Card (FESC), Okatana Health Center, Oshakati District, Oshana Region
Good morning! It is a real pleasure for me this morning to be able to join the leadership of Oshana region in unveiling the electronic stock card and pharmaceutical dashboard here at the Okatana Clinic.
On the 23rd of June last year in Windhoek, I joined the Honorable Minister of Health & Social Services, Dr. Bernard Haufiku, to launch use of the electronic stock card and the pharmaceutical dashboard in Namibia.
Today, just over one year later, we’re here to celebrate the fact that more than four dozen hospitals and health centers across Namibia have started to use the e-stock card and the dashboard. Okatana Clinic is the 50th site in the country to implement this key tool for managing medicines.
I know what some of you are thinking: It’s just a computer program, right? What’s so exciting about that? It’s exciting because the electronic stock card helps ensure that patients always have access to their medicines. Using the e-stock card lets pharmacists get patients the life-saving drugs they need, where they need them, when they need them, and in the right quantity.
Today not only marks a milestone in the tool’s wider and increasingly integrated use across the country. It’s also a chance for us to see how the U.S. government’s support for pharmaceutical management in Namibia is improving the delivery of services to patients in cities, towns and villages.
The e-stock card program is the realization of a N$7 million investment by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and USAID to save Namibian lives through improved pharmaceutical service delivery. I started this morning at the pharmacy at the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital. It is another key service delivery point in this region that is already using the electronic stock card and pharmaceutical dashboard.
I know the people in this room understand how important effective pharmacy management is to health service delivery. But let me give you all an idea of how much more effective this new system makes pharmacy operations: In the past it used to take up to two weeks or even longer to order medicines from the Central Medical Stores in Windhoek. Now, with the e-stock card, it takes no more than two days.
Of course, it’s great to celebrate innovation and technology, but let’s not forget that an electronic tool can’t change things for the better by itself. The tool has to fit into all of the other components in the pharmaceutical system. Even more important, the tool has to be useful to the people who work in the system, because they are the key to the technology’s successful implementation.
My government’s efforts to strengthen Namibian pharmaceutical systems have been an important part of more than a decade of our close cooperation with the Ministry of Health & Social Services. Together with the Ministry, we are working to strengthen key elements of health care delivery in sustainable ways. Strengthening pharmaceutical systems requires capacity building across a broad range of interconnected areas.
For that reason, while USAID has been working with the Ministry of Health & Social Services to bring the electronic stock card and pharmaceutical dashboard to Namibia, we have also been working to meet critical human resources challenges in the country’s pharmaceutical service sector. Some of USAID’s activities in this area include supporting the National Health Training Center to train more pharmacist assistants, and establishing a pharmacy degree program at the University of Namibia.
These activities benefit Namibia’s health sector as a whole, but since these are programs funded through PEPFAR, we are particularly focused on the contributions to the fight against HIV and AIDS. And when you’re talking about treating HIV, the role of the pharmaceutical system doesn’t end when a patient gets the right medicine at the right time. An effective pharmaceutical system must also ensure that the medicines are used appropriately.
Preventing the spread of HIV and treating AIDS present some big challenges. One of those challenges is getting patients onto anti-retroviral treatment and keeping them on it. To address that challenge, my government also supported the roll-out in Namibia of the Electronic Dispensing Tool, or EDT. It is another application that is used to schedule and track the dispensing of ARVs to patients. The EDT also monitors early warning signs of HIV drug resistance, which is a direct and dire consequence of interrupted or mismanaged patient ARV regimens. The EDT sends text messages to patients’ phones to help them remember to refill their ARV prescriptions at the pharmacy before they run out of their life-saving medication. The two tools – the e-stock card and the Electronic Dispensing Tool –work together to help pharmacists keep drugs in stock and dispense them at the right time, while reminding patients when it’s time to get their refills.
All of these efforts are part of the vision we share with the Ministry of Health & Social Services. That vision focuses our cooperation on meeting today’s health challenges while building the resilience to adjust to tomorrow’s challenges.
Okatana Clinic is the 50th health facility in the country that is now equipped with the electronic stock card and pharmaceutical dashboard. We are celebrating this as a remarkable milestone, but it is not the end. We started with hospitals, then moved to health centers, and eventually we hope that even the clinics will have these life-saving tools.
The cooperation and leadership of the Namibian government has been critical to making this project a success. I want to thank the Oshana regional health team, each and every one of you present today, as well as our partner, Management Sciences for Health, for successfully implementing the e-stock card in this region.
With that, please join me in unveiling the electronic stock card at the Okatana Clinic!