Nova Scotia needs to restock its medicine cabinet with a $5.8-million trip to the drug store, the province’s auditor general said Thursday.
The province’s stockpile of medical supplies is low, which could cause a shortage if the number of patients with Influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, spikes, according to the most recent audit by Jacques Lapointe and his staff.
The province is now putting millions into ordering new supplies, but because of the global H1N1 outbreak it could be up to 18 months before orders are met.
“We consider the (stockpiles) an important issue, one that should have actually been dealt with already," Lapointe said. "I can’t predict the effect of being short on supplies, I know that it makes life difficult for everybody."
His audit pointed out that a 2006 report called for $7.5 million to build up stockpiles, but as of the swine flu outbreak there was still a $5.8-million shortfall. He said most departments didn’t even request anywhere near the recommended funding.
“It’s a question of setting priorities. Why other priorities were set at budget time tather than these priorities, I don’t know,” Lapointe said.
Former Progressive Conservative Health Minister Chris d’Entremont said it was impractical to keep fully supplied stockpiles because different pandemic plans called for different supplies, adding that constantly shifting requirements would have lead to many supplies expiring and being wasted.
“The requirements and the requests were always different. So do we put money into something that in 12 months time would not be required?” d’Entremont asked.
“I think today we would be no further ahead than we were because the equipment we would have bought in 2007 would be expired.”
NDP Health Minister Maureen MacDonald recommended all 33 of Lapointe’s suggestions. Health officials claim there should be enough supplies to get through an outbreak unless an unexpected spike occurs.