'Slow govt procurement worsening drugs shortage'

HARARE - The health ministry has expressed concern over government’s “slow” procurement system, which it said has become an obstacle in the fight to curb drug shortages.

This comes as the ministry received $3,5 million Treasury bills in September last year before floating a tender for the procurement of drugs, but the process is yet to be completed.

“The tender process in this country is very slow,” Health deputy minister Aldrin Musiiwa said on the side-lines of a Zimbabwe Diabetes Association (ZDA) and Novartis International training workshop.

“For us in the medical field, we would have wanted a process where if we have the money, we immediately procure medicines and then make them available to the public,” he said.

“But naturally, as a government institution, there are regulations that for a certain amount of money, it has to go through tender process which sometimes can take months before we can procure the drugs.”

There are currently plans to establish an electronic procurement system that would enhance the State procurement process in the country as well as plug loopholes within the system.

Musiiwa’s remarks come as public health institutions are grappling with a drugs shortage making desperate patients resort to private pharmacies where prices are exorbitant.

“The rise of non-communicable diseases is an issue of concern in the Health ministry that is why we already have a department of non-communicable diseases,” he said.

“However, at the moment we have funding constrains. Our wish as a ministry is that all those patients who are diabetic be able to collect medicines from public health institutions.

“I have to be open with you, at the moment, we are constrained, and people have had to get prescription from private pharmacies.”

Non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, are increasingly becoming major silent killers.

Musiiwa said the Health ministry was working round the clock to combat non-communicable diseases.

“There is now renewed focus on the non-communicable diseases,” he said.

“As ministry, we have bid for funding under the global fund…we have also engaged Norvatis — one of the biggest producers of non-communicable drugs — and they have agreed to lower the price of drugs to this country,” he added.

ZDA president John Mangwiro added that the Association was assisting government by scaling up prevention and surveillance of diabetes by training health care workers.

Meanwhile, Musiiwa dismissed allegations that medicines for public health institutions were being smuggled into private pharmacies.

“There is no interchange of drugs between the private and public pharmacies.

“It’s purely a lack of stock in the public health institutions,” he said.

“A conflict of interest would only arise if medical staff in the public health institution are allowed to own a private pharmacy . . . remember this goes to tender as to who is the best to provide pharmaceutical services and naturally, government medical staff and their relations are excluded.”

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