Drug crisis to worsen

HARARE - The shortage of basic drugs in most health institutions is set to worsen as it emerged that government is failing to honour Treasury Bills (TBs) worth $3,5 million that had been issued to raise funds to import medicines.

The failure to honour the TBs — issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe — has seen the paper being rolled over to allow government more time to raise funding.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa said a number of measures taken by government to alleviate the medicines crisis, including availing money for the procurement of drugs, involves processes that take a long time.

“We got $3, 5 million Treasury Bills (in September last year), that tender has been floated, and it’s taking an awfully long time but that’s the situation,” he said.

TBs are short-term negotiable instruments issued by the government though the central bank to finance short-term requirements and are issued for periods ranging from 30 to 365 days.

“I think you are all aware that we have been having a situation where Treasury has been called upon to support National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm) where Natpharm is like our warehouse which receives all the drugs we use at out hospitals and Natpharm is not well resourced,” Parirenyatwa added.

“Natpharm was given $600 000 last week and $1 million after Christmas for the purchase of drugs. There are tenders that are out now and that should also cater for the anaesthetic drugs that are reported to be in short supply.”

The drug crisis in Zimbabwe has seen major hospitals suspend elective operations last year, with recent revelations that the country was left with only two weeks stock of anaesthetic drugs.

In his 2017 National Budget statement, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa introduced a five percent tax on airtime for the purchase of medicines and equipment, to have commenced on January 1.

But acting Health ministry permanent secretary, Robert Madyiradima, told the Parliament’s Health portfolio committee yesterday that the health levy has not yet taking off, as they are still working on the modalities of collection and policy guidelines.

“It will only take off when Treasury has worked out the policy,” he said.

“The Health ministry is ready to administer the fund, but Treasury is still crafting a policy instrument to look at issues of how to collect the money, and whether airtime users should share the costs with network providers and issues like that.”

Parirenyatwa said they were still looking for an investor to partner CAPS manufacturing, the biggest and government-controlled pharmaceutical manufacturing company.

The company needs $6 million capitalisation to be revived.

“CAPS is under-utilised and the machines are now old as you saw during the tour last year. So we think if we get a partner, to join forces with government so that we can re-equip CAPS, this would help” the Health minister said.

“So if we can get a foreign investor or any other investor who is willing to partner with government, that would be good,” Parirenyatwa said.

Comments (2)

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