Govt urged to provide forex for medicine procurement

PARLIAMENT has urged government to avail adequate foreign currency to the national drug stockist Natpharm for medicines procurement and raw materials to boost local production of drugs.

BY VENERANDA LANGA/RUTENDO MATANHIKE

A report presented last week in the National Assembly the Ruth Labode-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health says the committee’s visit to State health institutions showed that there is dire shortage of drugs.

“The committee noted that the black market was thriving as a result of shortages of medicines and drugs at public institutions, coupled with exorbitant prices of the products in the private sector,” the report read.

“The committee further noted the inadequacies by the police to deal with such crimes and their demotivation in light of punitive measures. Going forward, government should avail adequate foreign currency to Natpharm for procurement of medicines and raw materials to boost local production,” they said.

On the issue of Natpharm opening up pharmacies throughout the country, the Health committee said they were able to convince the Health ministry to drop the idea.

“During the familiarisation visit, the committee vehemently expressed its disapproval on the proposed idea for Natpharm to establish retail pharmacies across the country, at a time when the public health institutions did not have medicines.

“The majority of our population cannot afford medicines from the private pharmacies and they rely predominantly on the public sector. Hence, the committee proposed that the public health institutions be well stocked with medicines to improve on accessibility and affordability of the products to the general population. The Ministry of Health said the move to establish Natpharm retail pharmacies was to try and curtail the competition from the retailers who were charging in foreign currency, but, this has been overtaken by events and the proposal was dropped.”

The report also said almost 98% of drugs distributed to various hospitals were from donors, but the problem was that they were purchased with morbidity patterns in mind and had a very short shelf life of plus or minus three months in most cases.

“The result was that drugs were expiring at rural health centres and district hospitals, while the central hospitals were in need of the same. The Report noted that this was due to lack of an effective redistribution system of drugs to reduce the quantities of drugs expiring,” they said.

On traditional medicines, the committee said traditional medical practitioners seemed not keen to register their medicines so they become complementary medicines.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda on Friday last week said Cuba was ready to provide Zimbabwe with more medical doctors to alleviate the current shortage of health personnel in rural areas.

Addressing journalists after a meeting with Cuba’s first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelino Medina, Mudenda said they had discussed the need for medical doctors in Zimbabwe’s rural areas.

“We paid gratitude to the vice-minister of foreign affairs Cuba for the continued support in the field of health where currently their country have sent out 40 medical specialists to work in Zimbabwe and have also been preparing to increase the number.

“I did mention that our greatest need in the medical attention at doctor level was in the hinterland where we have district hospitals in rural areas and we have very few doctors out there. He said he will discuss the matter with the minister of health on how best we can get more doctors in the rural areas,” he said.

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