Drug shortages to end — Parirenyatwa

HARARE - Health minister David Parirenyatwa has said drugs shortages in the country’s public hospitals will soon end as government has managed to secure medicines through money collected from the airtime levy.

Parirenyatwa made the revelation in the National Assembly last week after Zanu PF MP for Bindura North Kenneth Musanhi asked the minister about drug shortages.

“I want to ask the Health and Child Care minister whether he has received anything, to date from the funds that were raised by the minister of Finance for health funding, because we see no change on the drug supply?” Musanhi asked.

In response, Parirenyatwa said the newly-acquired drugs will be distributed to major hospitals in a few weeks.

“We have had a health levy fund where we take five cents of every dollar from those who are using cell phones.

“So, if your phone bill is a dollar, we take five cents from there and put it into health levy fund.

“To date, this has raised $22 million and we have taken $11 million to $16 million to purchase drugs and other accessories.

“These are now mostly, at the national pharmaceutical company. A lot of them have started being distributed.”

“I am quite certain within the next few weeks there will be a sizeable difference in terms of supply of medicines in our institutions.

“We are benefiting. The challenge that we have is that we could have used more money but the constraint has been foreign currency allocation,” Parirenyatwa said.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa introduced the airtime tax in his 2017 National Budget under the ‘‘Talk-Surf and Save a Life’’ initiative.

The Treasury chief argued it had become unsustainable for both the taxpayer and government to rely on a shrinking formal tax base and it was “therefore, critical that all economically active individuals contribute towards funding health services.”

Government began deducting the five percent health levy on all airtime purchases in March last year.

The country health sector is heavily dependent on donors, with over 90 percent of the drugs being funded by the development partners.

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