Medical Stores Management. (MDS-3: Managing Access to Medicines and Health Technologies, Chapter 44)
(2012; 24 pages)


This chapter discusses medical stores management at central-level stores and at regional or district-level stores that are independent from health facilities. This supply model represents the traditional top-down system that is operated by a governmental or parastatal entity or a nongovernmental organization; however, a number of countries have now decentralized many of their pharmaceutical sector operations, including stores management.

Chapter 8 discusses supply chain options, including the trend toward decentralization. In addition, many supply systems contract out certain operations to private-sector companies. Managing contracts requires skills such as defining and monitoring performance indicators and negotiating payment and service terms. See Chapter 39 for more information on contracting. The tenets of this chapter, therefore, apply to stores operating in either the public (often called central medical stores) or nonpublic sectors.

Medical stores management should assist both the flow and reliability of supplies from source to user as economically and reliably as possible, and without significant wastage, loss of quality, or theft. The primary purpose of a store is to receive, hold, and dispatch stock. This materials management process is implemented through inventory control and warehouse management systems, which may be manual or computer based. The primary purpose of inventory control is to manage stock and ensure the smooth flow of goods by determining what, how much, and when to order stock. Consequently, it provides essential information for procurement management. Warehouse management comprises the physical movement of stock into, through, and out of a medical store warehouse. The systems should also be designed to provide information for performance monitoring.

The following are characteristics of a well-managed stores operation -

  • The store should be divided into zones that provide a range of environmental conditions and degrees of security.
  • There should be an appropriate zone to suit every item to be stored.
  • Stock should be arranged within each zone according to some orderly system.
  • Stock should be stored off the floor on pallets, on pallet racks, or on shelves. Each of these systems requires specific types of handling equipment.
  • Good housekeeping-cleaning and inspection, the disposal of expired and damaged stock, recording of stock movements, and the management of security- should be maintained.
  • The management structure should be clearly defined.
  • Staff should be appropriately qualified, trained, disciplined, and rewarded.
  • Clearly written procedures and handbooks should be available.
  • To promote efficiency, staff should have good working conditions and facilities.
  • Stock should be verified regularly and periodic audits should be conducted.

Although the essential characteristics of materials management are the same for all systems, the level of sophistication of medical stores varies widely, and each store approaches its system and documentation differently. Therefore, the basic features presented in this chapter are adaptable, depending on the complexity of the medical stores management operation.

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