Ncube criticised over failure to prioritise health

FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has been criticised for failing to prioritise the funding of health in the 2019 budget, with health lobbyists dismissing it as a mere ‘ritual’ and a piece meal, which falls short in addressing the comatose health delivery system, plagued by drug outages and poor infrastructure.

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

Although the allocation of $694,5 million (9,3%) is an increase of 33% from last year’s, it is still a far cry from the target of 15% set in 2001 by members of the African Union during a conference in Abuja, Nigeria.

Pitted against galloping prices for drugs, often charged in foreign currency, and an acute shortage of essential equipment in public health facilities as well as key staff, the amount is a far cry from the target of $1,3 billion, which the ministry requires to function properly.

In his presentation, Mthuli said “focus will be on ensuring that the referral system is re-established”.

Community Working Group on Health chief executive Itai Rusike said the allocation was inadequate.

“The massive increase in essential drug costs, drop in drug purchase by low income people and a fall in use of essential health care services are all issues that need looking into,” he said.

Rusike said the state of health services’ near-collapse is directly related to government misplacing its priorities.

Health lobbyist Fungisayi Dube, of the Citizens Health Watch, said the budget demonstrated that government did not prioritise health services.

“The budget sounds more like just a process or ritual that needs to be done. If the government really appreciated the challenges in the hospitals, they would have given a meaningful allocation,” she said.

Dube said it was disappointing to note that there had not been a deliberate effort to address maternal health challenges against a backdrop where “2000 women die every year due to maternal deaths”.

She, however, appreciated the pharmaceutical duty rebate on essential raw materials for drug manufacturing.

“We just hope it will be sustained to make menstruation easy and bearable for women. We want to see if this will really reduce the costs we incur every month,” she said.
Health rights and social equity expert Rutendo Bonde said it was a daunting task to prioritise health, among so many competing urgencies.

“However, what is good in this budget is significant investment in some other areas like measures to support local pharmaceuticals. For how long can we run a health delivery on imported drugs?” she said.

The situation at most public health facilities continues to spiral out of control, with institutions struggling to function on a shoe-string budget.

This has also resulted in staff getting demotivated and in turn lump it on the patients, who bear the brunt of it all.

6 Comments

  1. on this one only i agree and it was aptly put by another former zanoids reject that what we are witnessing in the health sector is nothing less of Genocide by the current regime because denying people cheap drugs is unforgivable and we slowly drifting towards another gukurahundi this time around fronted by the failure to provide basic health to the population of zimbabwe

    1. Correct @ Annonymous
      If they cared for the peoples health they would do something but they seem only to think of themselves that the elite can get treatment outside

  2. It’s a disgrace, they care more about bullets to oppress the people than medicines for the peoples health.Not all of use can abuse states facilities to seek medical treatment outside the country. Shame.

  3. On the issue of sanitary ware the minister was spot on and in all honesty the man is trying and the best we can do is to back him up on the reformes because it might all hurt now but soon i see we will be smiling.What in this life is ever easy.

    1. Do you know how much money govt wastes daily, monthly, yearly? Try find that out before taking everything govt officials say as gospel truth. This country is in this state not because of sanctions but govt living beyond its means simple. Unless that changes, nothing else will. We have to excel at arithmetic in practice first before the spaceship we’re dreaming of takes off!!

  4. The Health and Production Sectors should always be prioritised more than anything else. That however has not been the trend in Zimbabwe where non productive sectors come first without any compromise.

    On a positive note, I applaud the Minister for registering a positive improvement although we’re still very far from reaching the target.

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