Editorial Comment: Private pharmacies at hospitals raise stink

Editorial Comment

THE controversial private pharmacy at Parirenyatwa Hospital — which is said to be always fully-stocked with drugs when the hospital pharmacy is dry — could just be a tip of the iceberg of the scandal in the health sector where private individuals are enriching themselves at the expense of citizens’ failing health.

Critical medicines and drugs have become too expensive with only a few rich in our society able to buy them. Suffice to say, the majority of people that seek treatment at Parirenyatwa are low-income earners who actually need government-subsided healthcare services.

Thus having a private pharmacy inside the hospital premises creates fertile ground for corruption, which scourge all citizens should be fighting as a nation. We appeal to the Ruth Labode-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health to take up the suggestion by doctors at Parirenyatwa to investigate the ownership of the pharmacy, how it was allowed to run at the institution, and perhaps come up with ways of ensuring that the public pharmacy accesses medicines for patients.

Indeed, public institutions such as hospitals need good corporate governance practices and having a private pharmacy within a public hospital’s premises flies in the face of that tenet. It also does not make sense that the doctors at the hospital have no idea who owns the said pharmacy. Interesting questions such as how did it end up there arise? Who allowed the pharmacy to be set up within a public health facility? Why has it been operating all along with no investigations into its operations?

In fact, it may actually be a good idea to bring the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission into the picture so that they dig to the bottom of this matter, especially in light of concerns by doctors that drugs that would ordinarily cost $4 are sold for as much as $20 at the private pharmacy. This is obscene profiteering, which shows that someone is just out to make money by taking advantage of poor sick people. This indeed raises eyebrows. To make matters worse, Chitungwiza Hospital is also reportedly faced with the same situation.

There is need for the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe to urgently investigate all hospitals across the country with private pharmacies operating within their premises and order their closure, much the same way it did at United Bulawayo Hospitals in 2018.

It is our belief that for the health sector to run smoothly, healthcare should be easily accessible by the majority. Politicisation of healthcare as is the case now speaks to poor leadership by those holding the levers of power in the country.

Citizens should demand transparency in the health industry.

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