On the 4th of March 2014, Plus TV broke the news of a new and controversial post at the Ministry of Health. We dug into the story and were able to confirm that not only was the post newly created without proper procedures but it was also already filled; not just by anyone however, it was filled by the daughter of Erwin Contreras, Minister of Trade, Investment Promotion, Private Sector Development and Consumer Protection.
Complaints were made to the Ministry of Public Service and the Public Service Union and it was later unearthed that the Ministry of Public Service and its role was circumvented in the process of creating this new post of Director of Drug Inspectorate. In an interview with Marisol Melhado on April 9th she expressed displeasure with the new post saying,
“You cannot expect with zero experience to know what to do in the terms of counterfeit medication in terms of all these places open that don’t have a pharmacist. I mean, if you want to strengthen the profession of pharmacy, you strengthen by implementing the laws that are proposed”.
According to Melhado, Contreras’ Bachelor’s Degree, while enough for the Ministry, is short of the full requirements to practice pharmaceuticals in Belize let a lone be a director.
However the Ministry remains steadfast in their decision, and do not intend to remove Danini Contreras anytime soon. In an interview with Hon. Pablo Marin, Minister of Health, he says that:
“This person has a Bachelor’s degree. She is well qualified and according to one of our technical persons, Dr. Manzanero, she is qualified.…Now, with this person in place, we will be able to do all of these things. Just give me a time and you will notice that this will be working”.
The news today is that the Danini Contreras, the director of Drug Inspectorate at the Ministry of Health has been recommended to be authorized to sign pharmaceuticals coming into Belize. The Public Service Union was alerted when the Chief Pharmacist Sharon Anderson forwarded an email thread to the union, dated the 11th of April, that has very senior officials, including CEO Peter Allen, accusing the Chief Pharmacist of being on strike while she was reportedly on sick leave .
“The fact of the matter is that this officer has been targeted”.
“Reporter Emanuel Pech: “Before we proceed, the Union affirms the position that these emails that were allegedly sent off, they were in relation to the officer claiming that she is on strike and what not. You are claiming that they were lies”.
Senator Ray Davis: “The statement that this officer is in strike or any intimation is a blatant falsehood; it is a lie. It was not factual; the person was in sick leave as we are saying in the release”.
According to the Union, Anderson, never abandoned her duties, even while at home she arranged to continue looking over the entries.
Senator Ray Davis: “The Chief Pharmacist is the kind of officer that understands her functions and her responsibility extremely well. What she did was to put in place, as we mentioned, a structure where those entries will be well attended. She had somebody that went there, taking them to her home and she does the work. So, there was no issue of her holding anything or forms being held up for any reason; that was not an issue”.
Plus News understands that though the Chief Pharmacist returned to work since last week, the Chief Pharmacist just received dialogue with the CEO today. Sometime after the Public Service Union sent out its press release the Ministry of Health responded saying that:
“The Ministry would like to clarify certain points as the release contains several misrepresentations… In order to facilitate and maintain the availability of essential medical supplies at all times, it was thought advisable to authorize more than one officer to certify customs entries. Accordingly, three other pharmacists, in addition to Mrs. Sharon Anderson, were authorized by the Ministry to certify such entries and thus avoid delays. The Ministry is advised that this action is fully in accordance with the rules and regulations governing the supply of medical supplies.”
Nevertheless, the Union is calling for an apology to be made to Sharon Anderson and a retraction of the email. Otherwise they will proceed with a lawsuit for libel.
According to the Union, they continue to be in solidarity with the Pharmacist association in calling for the drug inspectorate post to be reviewed, for proper procedure to be adhered to and for an entire unit to be created with suitably trained personnel to carry out the job adequately.