Govt admits cutting funding for vital drugs

HARARE - Paul Chimedza, deputy minister of Health and Child Care, has admitted that the country’s hospitals are facing severe drug shortages which have compromised the treatment of patients.

He made the admission in the Senate on Thursday during ministers’ question time.

MDC Senator Misheck Marava quizzed Chimedza on the stock levels of drugs in State hospitals.

“We are reading in the press about the drug shortages and also word is going round that the country’s drugs or medical stocks are below the minimum levels. The citizens are in a sort of panic mood. Can you assure the country that we are safe?”

He spoke after the Daily News reported that State hospitals have run out of vital medicines, with the institutions prescribing even basic drugs for purchase at private pharmacies. The scarcity of drugs is creating grave problems for the poor.

Chimedza said the drug crisis was caused by government  under-funding the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm), whose sole purpose is to procure drugs and distribute them to all State health institutions.

“The drug situation in the country is not up to the standard that we are satisfied with,” Chimedza said.

“As government, we have failed to provide funds for our public entities. As a result, there is shortage of drugs in the central hospitals, provincial hospitals and district hospitals.

“The ministry of Health and Child Care has put a request to Treasury for $10 million which has to go to Nat Pharm but because of the shortage of funds, we were only allocated $3 million and  we have not received most of it at the moment.” 

Chimedza said the country’s health system was organised in a referral system where the lowest unit is called the rural health centre, followed by district hospital, provincial hospital, and the central hospitals which include Parirenyatwa, Mpilo and Harare hospitals.

He said the central and district hospitals were in a dire situation compared to the rural areas that were being funded by the donor community.

“Rural health centres, essentially drug level is at 80 percent  as most of them are supported by the multi-lateral partners,” he said. “So there is a kit that is enough for the rural health centres so that they have their medicines that are used at that level that is adequate for the rural  communities.”

Only a decade and a half ago, Zimbabwe’s public health system was ranked among the best in sub-Saharan Africa. But like the rest of Zimbabwe’s economic and social fabric during a decade-long socio-economic crisis, the health delivery system has alarmingly deteriorated.

In spite of the challenges, bankrupt Zimbabweans have to make do with what is available and often dread to visit State hospitals because of the deepening shortage of drugs.

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