Audit trip reveals medicines distributed across Jamaica 1-2 weeks after arrival

HPIC's Helen Crawley meets one of the kids at Bethlehem Home for disabled children run by Missionaries of the Poor, a partner group of Food For The Poor Jamaica. Helen just visited 10 facilities, including this home for children that has a clinic onsite and receives medicines from HPIC.

Food For The Poor Canada’s medicine provision project in Jamaica was the subject of an audit trip by Health Partners International of Canada in August.

“The purpose of the trip was to see how medicines are being used, stored and distributed and to learn more about the impact of the project and the needs,” HPIC’s Director of NGO Programs Helen Crawley says.

Every year HPIC provides about three 40-foot containers of essential medicines, over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies. HPIC has been working with Food For The Poor Canada since 2008. In a typical year, HPIC provides an estimated 115,000 treatments.

“Overall, the audit of Food For The Poor Canada was a success,” reports Helen. “Medicines are offered to local partners before they arrive and distribution begins across the island nation within 1-2 weeks of arriving.”
Helen identified some areas for improvement but is satisfied with Food For The Poor Canada and Food For The Poor Jamaica’s treatment of HPIC shipments of medicines and supplies donated by dozens of healthcare companies in Canada.

“The Food For The Poor Jamaica distribution centre has four separate areas, one of which is for medicine,” she said. “One of the areas we have noted for improvement is the need for a properly designated quarantine area in the rare case when medicines are recalled, broken or reach the end of their shelf life. HPIC could come alongside and provide assistance for issues like this identified as needing improvement.”

“On the positive side, Food For The Poor Jamaica can account for all the donated medicines and produced reports to show how they had been used. Our medicines are used quickly and do not sit around in warehouses.”

Food For The Poor is a major humanitarian organization in Jamaica and provides assistance in four broad areas: medicine, food, construction and other, including special projects like backpacks for school children. At Food For The Poor Jamaica’s clinic named Our Lady of the Poor, over 80% of the medicine in the pharmacy was provided by donations from Food For The Poor-Florida, which include donations from HPIC.

Helen spent Aug. 18-23 in the country and visited 10 facilities in several communities: 3 local NGO partner facilities, 2 government health care centres, three hospitals and two distribution centres (one belonging to Food For The Poor Jamaica and one belonging to the National Health Fund).

“Everywhere I went, we were received well. Food For The Poor is respected,” Helen reports. “They supply the National Health Fund with medicines for all 12 parishes and also provide medicines to church-run organizations and NGOs.”

About 70 per cent of medical relief provided by HPIC goes to the National Health Fund, a government branch of the Ministry of Health that provides all public health facilities with their medicines. The people Helen met from the government said they were happy to receive medicine from Canada because it works. There are efficacy problems sometimes when purchasing inexpensive drugs from countries with laxer quality control standards.

“One certain outcome of the trip is we will work with Food For The Poor Canada to have a more detailed needs list for their counterpart in Jamaica,” Helen says. “Mental health is an issue that people are more aware of these days and almost everywhere I went pharmacists and doctors highlighted the need for anti-depressants and anti-psychotics.”

Helen mainly met with pharmacists and NGO staff. “One patient story I heard about was quite remarkable,” she says. “I visited the Golden Age Home, which despite its name actually has residents aged 20-101 in a complex housing 400 people with disabilities and the elderly. This facility is very close to a Food For The Poor Jamaica clinic, Our Lady of the Poor, that had received analgesics, vitamins and incontinence materials.

“One of the younger residents was able to compete as a Paralympian thanks to treatment at the clinic and vitamins provided by HPIC.

“The entire community at Golden Age Home is proud of their Paralympian and so excited about his participation in the international sports competition for people with disabilities.

“HPIC’s donors can feel good about being part of this project that reaches the most vulnerable people in Jamaica,” Helen concluded.