Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
The National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm), the sole drug procurer for public health institutions, yesterday failed to justify why it is keen on introducing its own pharmacies at a time it is failing to stock already existing ones in the public health sector.
NatPharm officials were grilled by members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care that were on a familiarisation tour of the company.
The parliamentarians questioned the logic behind the introduction of the pharmacies and unanimously rejected the idea describing it as “unrealistic”.
Hurungwe Central member of National Assembly Dought Ndiweni said Natpharm should concentrate on satisfying the demand for medicines in public institutions before venturing into the retail sector.
“Let us be practical about this issue,” he said. “Stock up the Government pharmacies first before introducing your own pharmacies. Going ahead with such an idea will further push away access to medicines by the poor.”
Other legislators said NatPharm wanted to starve public health institutions of drugs in favour of private pharmacies.
“Why can’t we first of all deliver the medicines to the hospitals and then look at other pharmacies?” said Chimanimani West legislator Ms Lynette Karenyi. “People are not comfortable with this arrangement. We hear this from the people, the nurses and the doctors.
“Let’s do what people want and the medicines will get to everybody.”
Nkayi South legislator Cde Stars Mathe said clinics in her constituency did not have adequate medicines.
“How will people from a clinic in Nkayi access these pharmacies?” said Cde Mathe. “Why not just adequately stock all clinics and hospitals in line with your mandate?”
NatPharm managing director Mrs Flora Sifeku said the idea of retail pharmacies run by her institution was meant to address challenges emanating from the present economic situation.
She said the challenges were mainly to do with pricing of medicines by private pharmacies procured through Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS).
“You find that some pharmacies access medicines from us through RTGS, but they continue effecting three-tier pricing, thereby disadvantaging patients,” said Mrs Sifeku. “We would want pharmacies to accept any form of payment from patients since they are buying these medicines from us using RTGS.”
Mrs Sifeku did not explain how they will be able to stock the pharmacies when they were failing to stock Government institutions, which fall directly under Natpharm.