EDITORIAL COMMENT: Address hospital drugs shortage urgently

37a06e4a72d6cb27621f1ed829bbee81_XLThe country’s major public hospitals are facing an acute shortage of drugs and this is compromising health delivery services. The hospitals which include Mpilo Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals, Harare Central Hospital, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, provincial and district hospitals, are supplied drugs by the National Pharmaceutical Company.

Natpharm said last week that it received $800,000 from Treasury in October and has since then been waiting for the completion of the tendering procedure. Most of the hospitals now have very low stocks of drugs forcing many of them to buy the drugs from other suppliers.

The hospitals have limited resources as many of the patients are not paying for the services. Many of these institutions are owed millions of dollars by patients and as such can only buy essential drugs with the limited resources available. Many patients are now being asked to buy drugs from private pharmacies but unfortunately many of the patients cannot afford to buy the drugs.

Natpharm’s managing director, Flora Sifeku, said the company was owed $24 million by the government hence it was failing to meet its obligation of supplying adequate drugs to government hospitals.

What is obtaining at the hospitals cannot be allowed to continue and there is therefore urgent need for the government to address the drugs shortage.

It is every Zimbabwean’s right to access health services but as long as public health institutions have no drugs, many people would be denied this right. Most of the people who seek services at government hospitals are the poor who cannot afford to pay for the drugs. It is these poor people who owe the hospitals millions of dollars in unpaid admission fees.

The government should, without delay, ensure Natpharm has adequate resources to enable it to supply drugs to public health institutions. Efforts should be directed at ensuring that the $24 million government owes Natpharm is paid as soon as possible. We want at this juncture to call on the private sector to complement government efforts in providing health services.

Companies and no- governmental organisations could assist with cash, drugs or other resources required by health institutions. Many of the people seeking services at government hospitals are workers of different companies hence the need for companies to complement government efforts.

We are however aware that some companies are already contributing significantly to health services provision in their respective communities and this is as it should be. We want to once again call on the government to urgently address the drugs shortage at major hospitals before many people die at home after failing to buy drugs.

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