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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (January 12, 12, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Majuro and Ebeye hospitals are running out of vital medicines and there’s no money to buy new drugs, according to both Majuro Hospital and Social Security management.

The Marshall Islands owes about $750,000 to off-island drug vendors, who have indicated they will not ship new orders without payment of unpaid bills, according to hospital administrator Sandy Alfred and MISSA administrator Saane Aho.

About $300,000 worth of new medicine orders are currently waiting for availability of money before they can be sent to vendors. Some of the orders date back to last August, Alfred said.

"We’re running out of numerous drugs and supplies," Alfred said. "Our main laboratory vendor has told us it won’t fill new orders unless past due bills are paid. If our lab service stops, the hospital stops because it is the main support for our doctors."

Aho said the problem is simple. "There’s no money. We just can’t pay for medicines."

She indicated that because of the large outstanding medical referral debts, the government has been devoting substantial funding to pay off its referral bill and there hasn’t been any additional money set aside for drugs and medical supplies.

Aho said that MISSA has been meeting with government leaders in an effort to resolve the problem. "We need to focus on the $750.00 liability, and then move ahead on the $300,000 in purchase orders (for new drugs)," she said.

Aho said the way they handled the ongoing money shortage late last year was to get Alfred to prioritize medicine and supply needs to make a limited order.

Aho noted that the law that established the national health fund which pays for medical referrals, not drugs and supplies – required that the government support the fund with $6-$7 million annually from 1991 to 1995, and after that as needed, in order to fully establish the viability of the health fund. But that level of government subsidy didn’t happen, she said. During the past year, the RMI government injected more than $3 million into the health fund for medical referrals, she said. Earlier MISSA administration used money from the retirement fund to pay for medical referral costs, she added.

"The best possible option," Alfred said, "is we get some money, re-energize our relations with companies by paying our bills, and get new orders out."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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