The Gambia is working on plans to introduce a policy that will regulate donated medical items to ensure the country does not become a dumping ground for obsolete medical equipment.
The Minister of Health, Dr Amadou Samateh, told lawmakers in Banjul at the national assembly recently that they are in the process of getting technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop the policy.
"Steps are already been taken to regulate private health facilities in the country. The proposed regulations are with the solicitor general for review. We have also started medical missions into the country."
"However, the medicine control agencies have been regulating the importation of drugs in the country," Minister Samateh said.
Dr. Samateh made the remarks in response to a question raised by the Member for Sabach Sanjal, Ousman Touray, who asked him to inform the assembly whether his ministry has plans to come up with a legislation to regulate donated medical items or goods from abroad or other parts of the world.
The policy the ministry is working on is dubbed Medicines Control Agencies Regulations.
Minister Samateh explained that the way some of the donated drugs are brought into the country make monitoring difficult for them.
"Many of them come with other items in containers... So monitoring them individually especially if they are small volumes can be a challenge."
"But we are putting forward guidelines and the Medicines Control Agencies Regulations which we were working on it, which would be ready soon; is looking at those factors," he added.
Dr. Samateh said the guidelines are going to look at donated items and the penalties involved if someone is found wanting. For example when one brings the donated drugs without license.
"People cannot bring in drugs like that without even prior notification of the facility of the agency. Because just in case the drugs are not consumable within the country, what happens to them? Because even the disposal of these drugs alone is a big concern and poses environmental hazard," he said.
Explaining further, Dr. Samateh said sometimes they may not even know whether sending the drugs in the country was a way of some people's idea of getting rid of the drugs in their communities. As such, he said they are seriously looking into it.
Similarly, minister Samateh said the procedures are being developed to make sure that The Gambia is not a dumping ground for obsolete medical equipment.
"A lot of times some do get here and we are unable to use them. You go to virtually any facility in the country you see a whole lot of items standing. We cannot even get the spare parts. Sometimes when they come, they are functional, but we cannot even get the spare parts when they break down. So that is also going to be regulated," he explained.
Samateh said the country is graduating into procuring new items for its people rather than getting almost expired items for the facilities