Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter—
The Ministry of Health and Child Care is appealing for urgent release of funds from the Ministry of Finance for the procurement of drugs and other sundries amid revelations that public health institutions were struggling to cope with the increasing burden of care. Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa made these revelations after visiting several district and provincial hospitals dotted across the country to assess the state of affairs.
Dr Parirenyatwa said while his nationwide tours showed dedication by staff in health institutions to their work despite the challenges they continue to face, there was an urgent need for Treasury to release funds to address some of the challenges faced by the hospitals.
“There is a huge shortage of drugs in the country, across the board and that is an urgent matter that we are seeing our Minister of Finance about, we cannot continue to go on like that,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
“Most of the essential drugs are out of stock and the list grows as you go from district, provincial and to referral hospitals. That shortage is there and as a ministry it concerns us that Government should do something urgent about it and that something is through the Minister of Finance,” said Dr Parirenyatwa. In a separate interview, Health and Child Care acting permanent secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga said Government has failed to procure drugs and sundries since the beginning of the year.
He said while a total of about $3,5 million was approved for drugs and sundries in the 2016 National Budget only $1 million has so far been disbursed for all public hospitals in the country.
He said the disbursed $1 million is supposed to cater for medicines, patients’ food, utility bills and other hospital requirements. “Let it also be noted that this $1 million disbursement will not only cater for drugs and sundries, but it’s the total disbursement towards hospital operations, which include food for patients, electricity, water and other hospital bills,” he said.
Dr Mhlanga said the $1 million disbursed is also still inaccessible hence no procurement of medicines has so far taken place. “No procurement of medicines has so far taken place because no cash has been released,” he said.
In total, Treasury approved a total budget of $11 million for hospital operations from which about $3,5 million is for medicines and sundries. The budget for medicines account for 32 percent of the total budget allocated to hospitals.
Dr Mhlanga said given the current scenario, it was then difficult for hospitals to manage the current demand of care. He said institutions have resorted to using cash raised from fees billed to patients after receiving medical attention while others were getting medicines on credit from suppliers.
“The little that they collect from services rendered is used to buy drugs, food for patients and other costs,” said Dr Mhlanga. Dr Parirenyatwa has so far visited Masvingo, Chiredzi, Silveira Mission, United Bulawayo Hospitals, Mpilo, Maphisa, Gweru, Mnene, Zvishavane and Shamva hospitals.