Ramallah: The Palestinian Health Ministry is experiencing a serious shortage of drugs after the Union of Palestinian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (UPPM) announced that it would not supply medicines to the ministry because the outstanding Palestinian National Authority (PNA) medical supply debt has passed 270 million Shekels (Dh282.6 million).

Haitham Masrouji, who heads the UPPM, said that PNA has failed to settle debt instalments for the past two and half years, and that has negatively affected pharmaceutical manufacturers and importers.

“The decision to boycott the Palestinian Health Ministry remains in place and the ministry will not be supplied the medical supplies it needs until the financial dispute is totally resolved,” he told Gulf News.

He said that the union was not punishing the ministry, the Palestinian government or the Palestinian public, but that it should be understood that the warehouses of all the pharmaceutical companies were empty.

“We had already informed the Palestinian government that the situation was catastrophic and that something needed to be done about it,” he said.

Masrouji said the pharmaceutical companies have had to take bank loans to support their operations.

The Palestinian Health Ministry spoke with the union and addressed the debt issue, vowing to pay off the debts in monthly instalments.

This promise was categorically rejected by the companies that demanded their debts be paid in lump sums.

“The instalments will not resolve the financial hardships of the companies in the union that supply the ministry with more than 75 per cent of its pharmaceutical needs and medical supplies,” Masrouji said.

“The union is a partner to the government in serving the Palestinian public in the medical sector, but the pharmaceutical companies are no longer able to supply the ministry,” he said. “We need an effective resolution of the current situation.”

Masrouji said that the relationship with the Palestinian government is not balanced at all and badly harms the Palestinian public.

“We import from the outside and when our shipments arrive at Israeli ports, the companies pay all types of taxes in cash. The PNA receives its tax share from the Israeli side monthly, but the PNA has not considered the kind of damage and loss the companies suffer,” he said.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that the financial dispute with the pharmaceutical companies is currently under review by the ministry and the Palestinian cabinet.

A senior official from the ministry told Gulf News that dialogue with the union is underway and the ministry, in coordination with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Palestinian government in general, will develop proposals to offer to the union to secure an immediate resumption of trade in pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

The Palestinian public has expressed concern about shortages of medicines in the pharmacies of public hospitals and medical centres.

Abu Al Saeed, a Palestinian national told Gulf News that the Palestinian individual is not treated in government hospitals without being insured and that insurance covers the available medicines, but now the Palestinian public has to buy all its medicine from the private sector, which has added a financial burden to already difficult conditions.