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Health stakeholders warn of time bomb

News
HEALTH stakeholders yesterday warned of a health time bomb, as the country is facing a serious shortage of medicines, equipment and infrastructure.

HEALTH stakeholders yesterday warned of a health time bomb, as the country is facing a serious shortage of medicines, equipment and infrastructure.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

They urged legislators to refuse to pass the 2017 health budget if it is less than 15% of the National Budget, as per the Abuja Declaration.

The principal director for preventive services in the Health ministry, Gibson Mhlanga, told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health yesterday that $1,2 billion was required for the sector next year.

Of that amount, $300 million was earmarked for salaries and $900 million for recurrent and capital expenditure.

Mhlanga said Treasury was planning to allocate $50 million for recurrent and capital expenditure to the sector, excluding salaries, whose figure was yet to be released.

He said the ministry was undertaking a study to find out the staffing requirements for the health sector, and acting chairman of the Health committee, Prince Sibanda said the 1980 figures of 33 000 health workers were misleading.

Government had also not opened up vacancies in the health sector despite shortages of staff, Mhlanga told the committee.

National Aids Council (Nac) spokesperson, Madeline Dube told the committee that the situation in the health sector was so dire that people were dying unnecessarily due to lack of drugs, such as pain killers.

Nac finance director, Albert Manenji said 85% of the resources for HIV patients were coming from donors, and revenue attained from the Aids Levy was dwindling by up to 15%.

“If donors switch off their taps, the 900 000 people on ARVs will remain without support,” he said.

Manenji said the current cash crisis had also caused delays in procurement of medicines.

NatPharm managing director, Florence Sifeko said the $1 million allocated every year to her institution resulted in failure to procure critical medicines.

She said at the end the $1 million was used for theatre equipment and other critical areas.

“I am appealing for $16 million to get quick wins. We only have 23 trucks for distribution of medicines throughout the country and the ideal is 33, and this results in stock-outs and defaulting of patients to take medicines,” she said.

Zimbabwe Association of Church-Related Hospitals director, Vuyelwa Chitimbire said the health crisis had worsened to the extent pain killers, gloves and food for patients were not available at hospitals.

“We find people are now doing medical tourism to other countries because we are not investing in our health system. We need a tangible plan to move away from donor support,” he said.

The stakeholders said donors were now concentrating on critical countries facing humanitarian crises like Syria.