GOVERNMENT has suspended private services such as pharmacies at State-run hospitals pending investigations into their ownership.This came at a time the government was still smarting from a US$60 million corruption scandal involving a COVID-19 medical supplies tender.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
The scandal, which attracted widespread condemnation when the Health ministry was suffocating from a myriad of challenges, resulted in the arrest and dismissal of then Health minister Obadiah Moyo.
“The acting Minister of Health and Child Care (Amon Murwira) is requesting (1) details of all private service providers at all government health institutions, (2) to have their services suspended while investigations on their ownership and authentication of the private public partnerships (PPPs) arrangement are being instituted,” acting Health permanent secretary Gibson Mhlanga wrote in a memo dated July 20 to government-run health centres.
The memo was copied to provincial medical directors and respective chief executive officers of the health institutions.“These service providers referred to include, but are not limited to (a) pharmacies (b) pathological laboratories (c) radiological services (d) canteens and others. Please submit the information soonest.”
Health ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri on Wednesday confirmed the memo when contacted for comment.“Yes, I confirm the memo,” Mujiri said, but could not shed more light on the matter.
In January this year, doctors at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals asked Parliament to intervene and investigate Devine Pharmacy which operates within the hospital’s premises, which they said was competing with the public institution and creating loopholes for corruption.
A doctor at the institution told the Ruth Labode-Led Parliamentary Committee on Health during a visit that some drugs at Devine Pharmacy were 500% more expensive and the outlet was curiously always well-stocked compared to the hospital’s pharmacy.
Doctors were forced to refer patients to the expensive pharmacy as theirs was constantly out of stock, the parliamentary committee heard.