In response to revelations that the West Demerara Regional Hospital has, for a number of months, been waiting to have its expired drugs disposed of, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence has said the system employed in the disposal of drugs is archaic and plagued by staffing issues. She, however, added that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) is working to have those issues addressed.When questioned at the March 26 Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting as to why more than $5.4 million in expired drugs dating back to 2016 have not beenPublic Health Minister Volda Lawrence speaking to reporters on Fridaydisposed of, Regional Health Officer for Region Three, Dr Ravendra Dudhnath, informed that Public Health personnel are still awaiting the intervention of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GAFDD).Minister Lawrence, who also sits on the PAC, told reporters on Friday that she would have made contact with the GAFDD to make officers available to ensure the drugs are disposed of. Asked why it would have taken so long to have the drugs disposed, the minister informed that the system is plagued by staffing issues.“I know that last year we did have an exercise at several facilities removing drugs. I know that with regards to the present request for removal, I did speak with the Food and Drug Department to make sure that they make staff available to visit with the institution, as they (the institution) had indicated that they did request. So, at this point, I cannot say whether that has been done, or has not been done,” Lawrence said.She noted that the issue of expired drugs has been in existence for a number of years, and added that the system to dispose of those drugs needs modernising.“We do not have a system which allows for the ready distribution. Most of the systems that we have are very archaic. The officers do not have the responsibility to dispose on their own, so they depend on other entities, whether it is the Auditor General; the Food and Drug, who will come and say how you dispose of these particular items that you have. So it cuts across (departments), and they all have their challenges,” she explained.Additionally, Lawrence said MoPH personnel are taking steps to have issues addressed, but it would take some time before the changes become visible.“It’s a work in progress. We have to change the ways in which our regulations are written. We have to ensure that we have more people at the various entities, so that they can be dispatched more readily at the various institutions to assist (the institutions) with disposal,” she added.According to the Auditor General’s Report of 2016, some 213 items of expired drugs with an approximate value of $5.4 million were noted at West Demerara Regional Hospital and seven health centres within Region Three. It was also revealed that the drugs are still being stored at the bond, which is also used to store current medical supplies. However, Dudhnath told the PAC there is no chance the expired drugs could be dispensed to patients, since they are stored separately in the bond. The PAC also heard that the region had officially requested the removal and destruction of the expired drugs since August 2017.