Treasury starved hospitals of medicines: Chiwenga

VP Constantino Chiwenga

VICE-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Health minister, has revealed that hospitals were this year starved of medicines by Treasury after it only released $5 billion of the Health ministry’s $15 billion allocation.

This resulted in the ministry only managing to procure 14% of the required medicines for hospitals this year due to financial constraints.

Addressing a 2023 Parliament pre-budget seminar in Harare on Monday, Chiwenga said the failure to fund critical medical services was due to financial challenges facing the country.

“The 2022 annual budget for medicines, health facilities was $15 billion and only $5 billion was released.

“The comment from the public was that people were failing to access the most basic services, and their major concern was the need for critical equipment and services such as maternity,” Chiwenga said.

“The year 2022 faced cash challenges and this led to inadequacy of critical medical supplies. However, with the funds that we have availed, 14% of the required medicines were procured.”

He also said government only released $2,8 billion for health infrastructure instead of the $18 billion allocated.

“The ministry takes note of the state of the infrastructure at some of the health institutions. To address this, the ministry was allocated $18 billion, however only 2,8 billion was disbursed. I want to clear this, for the health posts, we should have 1 700 ward-based health facilities if we are to give attention in terms of healthcare to every Zimbabwean. \

“We found out that there was a gap from the clinics, certain diseases were supposed to be pushed straight to the districts.

“For contraceptives, government provided funding amounting to $687 million and the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council procured contraceptives worth US$1,5 million,” he said.

Meanwhile, the country’s per capita (per person) spending on health is said to have dropped from US$45 in 2021 to US$20 this year.

This follows a decline in health sector allocations from 13% in 2021 to 10,6% in 2022.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the country was facing deep structural challenges in the health sector.

“Government spends a relatively small share of its gross domestic product on health.  That is why there has been a recent decrease on health expenditure per person to US$20 this year from US$45 in 2021,” Rusike said.

Lower levels of per capita health expenditure indicate that health expenditure in the country is insufficient to guarantee adequate access and quality of healthcare for the communicable and non-communicable diseases, injuries, other conditions and services.

The inadequate public financing of health has resulted in an over-reliance on out-of-pocket and external financing which is highly unpredictable and unsustainable.

The World Health Organisation recommends a per capita health expenditure of at least US$84 per year.

Compared to other countries in the sub-region, Zambia’s 2022 per capita spending on health is US$85, South Africa (US$570 per person) and Malawi (US$35).

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