1 July 2012

Tanzania: Law On Hospital Equipment Long Overdue


QUALITY assurance is an important aspect that ensures goods and services acquired are in good condition and at acceptable standards for particular purposes.

But, despite its importance, quality assurance is one of the aspects often overlooked when purchases or supplies are made by either public or private organisations. The end user is always at a disadvantage as substandard goods and services may have adverse effects on them, especially if it has anything to do with their health.

Few years ago we experienced such anomaly when the government had to withdraw South Korean-made HIV Test Kits from circulation following warnings about their quality. It followed the removal by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the Standard Diagnostics Bioline HIV ½ 3.0 Rapid HIV Test Kit from list of approved rapid test kits from circulation after Bioline failed quality assurance.

Despite their withdrawal, how many had already found their way to end users who might have developed complications after using them? What about compensation considerations?There are no reliable information about the seriousness of use of substandard equipment, especially those related to health delivery services because this is central to human health.

There have been cases of patients developing complications after injection with syringes breaking while injection is being administered. Ignorance on the part of patients on the quality of hospital equipment has had far reaching consequences, including loss of life.

The Law establishing the Weights and Measures Agency (WMA), which is an executive agency responsible for fair trade transactions through certification weights and measures is said to be ineffective.Although the Law is dedicated to protect consumers, businesses and manufacturers from unfair trade through the application of accurate weights and measures, it is an example of legislations that are not known to the public.

For example, even the legal measures taken against those guilty of violating this Law are ineligible. A penalty of only 10,000/- does not discourage perpetrators of their shoddy businesses to make it business as usual.This piece of legislation, in our opinion, is one of the unpopular documents because it has not been publicized and secondly it is outdated. The advent of trade liberalization also calls for need to review many of the Laws in order to cope with current times.

The supply of hospital equipment into the country, for example, leaves a lot to be desired. Many of them are not inspected at entry point as many are brought by charity organizations or support from development partners. To make matters worse, it is not easy to return them to suppliers once delivered.

As usual, the sufferers are the poor people in our communities. Malaria which is number one killer disease in the country and also forms biggest number of hospital attendance entails injections. There have been cases of syringes breakage as medicine is administered on a patient. What follows is more complication on the part of the patient as it also worsens treatment process.

The statement by the Calibration manager of Weights and Measures Agency (WMA) of the Ministry of Industries and Trade, Mr Richard Kadege, at the 36th Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF) that Weights and Measures Act of 1982 (and amended in 2002) is undergoing review to give it more teeth is long overdue.

We hope that the review will go hand-in-hand with massive publicity campaigns for the public to know them so that they are aware of their legal rights in case they come across situations where substandard equipment is used. It will go a long way to ensure the country does not continue to be a dumping ground for substandard goods and services.

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