Clinic workers learn how to better manage medical supplies

supply chain management session
By Peace Corps Botswana
March 20, 2017

But those moments—moments that can dishearten the patient, overwork the staff, and burden the system—are not as hopeless as one might think. The moments of “ga gona” are on the decline! 

In clinics, we’ve seen it—the “ga gona” moment. The moment when, after being transferred from facility to facility, a patient is told once again that there is no vitamin B, or Cotrimoxazole, or Azithromycin today. The moment of, “thank you for manifesting the courage to come to the clinic...mme ga go na paracetamol. There is paracetamol at the next clinic… mme ga go na transport.”

But those moments—moments that can dishearten the patient, overwork the staff, and burden the system—are not as hopeless as one might think. The moments of “ga gona” are on the decline! The Ministry of Health and Wellness drug and commodities management is improving exponentially, in great part due to its partnership with SCMS—and now, the health sector Volunteers of the Peace Corps.

The Supply Chain Management System, or SCMS, was established in 2005 by PEPFAR, through USAID. Its goal was to enable the unprecedented scale up of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment programs in the developing world. SCMS procured and distributed essential medicines and health supplies, works to strengthen existing supply chains in the field, and facilitates collaboration and the exchange of information among key donors and other service providers. Since arriving in 2007, the Botswana National SCMS has progressed substantially, reducing the number of expired products at the Central Medical Stores in Gaborone, improving customer service, increasing access to essential medicines at reduced prices, and streamlining approvals for less expensive generic ARVs. They have also recently greatly improved the transport and delivery of commodities, aiming to distribute smaller orders to facilities more frequently. There are still challenges the system is working to address including a lack of standardized tools and reliable systems for inventory, logistics information management and forecasting and quantification, and limited human resource capacity.

In efforts to increase the capacity of the health commodities systems in Botswana, the Ministry of Health and Wellness partnered with USAID and Peace Corps since 2015 to assist in the dissemination of knowledge and skills pertaining to logistics management of health commodities and related supplies. With Peace Corps Volunteers’ working on the ground in health facilities, elements such as recording and reporting, pipeline communication, and ultimately service quality can all be improved. Since 2015, a special leadership committee, comprised of Peace Corps Volunteers and Staff, focusing on Supply Chain management has coordinated trainings targeting health care professionals across the country to better enable them to manage health commodities in their facilities.

This year, the Committee in partnership with USAID and Botswana’s Ministry of Health & Wellness recently carried out two 5-day workshops in Logistics Management of Health Commodities. Altogether, 73 local health care practitioners and Peace Corps Volunteers were trained in Supply Chain Management aiming to implement Standard Operating Procedure practices in order to strengthen the efforts to avoid stock outs as well as overstock of key commodities across Botswana's hospitals, clinics and health posts. 

As the only training of its kind in the Peace Corps community, the initiative has received recognition from the U.S. Embassy and was included in official communication with the Department of State, Washington D.C. as a best practice last year.