2016 marked the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of the Gulf Health Council, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Today, regular meetings are held to discuss t...
The Gulf Health Council is a regional technical specialised organisation with its membership restricted only to the Cooperation Council States, plus Yemen. Within this organisation sits Gulf Joint Procurement programme. “The Council enjoys a legal impartiality and financial and administrative independence,” advises Fatthi Alkathiry, Director at Gulf Joint Procurement.
The Health Council of the GCC aims to develop cooperation and coordination among member states in the preventive, curative and rehabilitative health fields, as well as other mutually beneficial activities.
The idea of the joint procurement for medicine began in February 1976, when the Ministers of Health of the GCC states requested that the Council form a technical committee among the states. The committee's main objective was to study the possibility of member states benefiting from direct control, like the processes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
A second key objective was to standardise the purchase of certain medicines. “The set objective at that time was to study the development of a unified system for the registration and control of medicines and the development of a guide for medicines in the GCC states,” Alkathiry explains. “The Gulf Health Council for Joint Procurement seeks to standardise the directory of pharmaceutical devices and medical supplies throughout the Gulf Joint Procurement programme, with the controls in place across the GCC member states.”
With vast potential to impact the lives of others, the Gulf Health Council takes very seriously putting the interests of citizens in the Gulf countries above all considerations. With a growing population in the region, healthcare is set to become even more important. The GCC healthcare market is projected to grow at a 12.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from an estimated US$40.3bn in 2015 to US$71.3bn in 2020, according to Alpen Capital.
“The mission of the Gulf Joint Procurement programme is the development of a unified directory for medicines and medical supplies for all specialities, and the provision of high-quality medicines, medical supplies and devices to member states and participating hospitals, to the right location, at the right time, and from the manufacturers registered with the Central Registration Programme, at fair prices. The ambition of Gulf Joint Procurement programme is to be the benchmark in the provision of standardised procurement services, based on global procurement standards,” reveals Alkathiry.
In order to adhere to global procurement standards, Gulf Joint Procurement programme coordinates the process of selection, standards specification, and quantity of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and equipment required by Ministers of Health in member states, as well as standardising the preparation of tenders.
The most prominent services that indicate the extent of progress and modernisation in a country are those services that concentrate on sustained health welfare and safety of the people. To this end, Gulf Joint Procurement programme ensures that all of the medicines it procures meet the highest safety standards. “We supervise the process of receiving samples and ensure the safety of their use, storage and preparation during the tender stage,” states Alkathiry.
The tendering services offered by Gulf Joint Procurement programme are possibly the most integral ones to the success of achieving its mission. “We receive tender documents, and source and prepare schedules of comparison between tenders. Also, we plan, coordinate and prepare meetings of the joint procurement committees,” reveals Alkathiry. “We follow-up on the recommendations of the executive committee and decisions issued by these committees and coordinate with the member states as to the combined quantities required. Finally, we announce the results of the purchase decision and recommendations, and we receive, verify and study complaints and objections concerning tenders, and refer to the supplementary commentaries.”
The factor of time
Many may not know that time is the most important factor in the procurement process. "The most important reasons for the success of Gulf Joint Procurement programme is committing to the time of tendering over the next 40 years. The whole tendering process takes around four months, starting from the directory updating meeting and preparation for tender until the tentative notice of award,” explains Alkathiry. “This attracted several bodies, other than the health ministries in the member states, to apply for participation in the Gulf Joint Procurement programme.”
In order to achieve such success, Gulf Joint Procurement programme collaborates with a number of other key players. “Our partners are the ministries of health in the GCC. We have six countries there – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. They are members of the Gulf Health Council. Also, we have more than 20 public hospitals like King Fahad Medical City, King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, and King Abdullah Medical City in Mecca,” states Alkathiry. “All suppliers from our programme are our partners also. We have about 18 categories of materials.
“The mission of the Health Council is to promote and upgrade the health sector in member states by providing constructive initiatives and responding to the regional and global health issues. We challenge and support the decision-making process, and the health policies with the aim to strengthen the cooperation and integration between the member states, the health sector and among that, achieve the Council objectives. Its values are accountability, professional leadership, continuous development, evidence-based decisions, creativity and innovations, quality, cooperation and coordination, integrity and ethics.”
Such partnerships and values have been key to the success of Gulf Joint Procurement programme. “I think we're not successful without three main key factors – coordination, collaboration and integration,” Alkathiry comments. “Without these three main factors, the 40-year old Gulf Joint Procurement programme would not be successful.”
Out of 50 employees within the Health Council, seven employees are serving in the Gulf Joint Procurement programme. Alkathiry strives hard to attract and retain the best staff to ensure the continued success of Gulf Joint Procurement programme. “I create a workspace where every employee is engaged by the work they do and inspired by who they work for. Without good staff you will not achieve your goal. The management structure achieves this by encouraging everyone to innovate.
“It doesn't have to be earth-shattering. It can be a small change, but innovation equals improvement. Innovation must streamline, must enhance, must endure. Innovating our business by looking for ways to reduce expense, speeding up or streamlining processes, improving customer interactions and experience, making our products or services better. Innovation drives business, so if you don't encourage your people to innovate, you are wasting your resources, I believe.”
Automation for the people
Such innovation is central to Gulf Joint Procurement’s future plans. “I'm working now with my team to automate our processes. There are plans in the future, to implement a new system for the Gulf Joint Procurement programme. Currently we have requirement to automate our process, and link with the GCC countries and the suppliers to make quotations align, and to organise everything historically. The second thing - there are plans for expansion of the service procurement to market our services to the private hospitals to join in our programme,” Alkathiry concludes.