2 August 2012

Tanzania: State Plans to Revamp MSD

Dodoma — THE government will engage a consultant in the near future to investigate and come up with the best advice on how to organize and run the Medical Stores Department (MSD) whose erratic services have annoyed nearly all Members of Parliament.

The Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, was bombarded by complaints from the legislators on Monday, many of whom demanded that the entire management of MSD be disbanded and that the department be re-organized.

Dr Mwinyi, who was winding up his ministry's 2012/13 annual budget estimates, told the House on Tuesday evening that installing a new managerial team was a possibility. He agreed with the legislators that the MSD had become a liability to the nation.

The lawmakers endorsed the ministry's budget proposals. The minister had asked for a total of 581.7bn/- for all round expenditure for his ministry. He had told the House that 298.2bn/- would meet recurrent expenditures and 283.4bn/- would finance projects.

The MPs were particularly bitter that MSD lost more than 630m/- last fiscal year in expired drugs.

They saw no point why MSD imported medical drugs that had a limited shelf life. They complained that the department did its job erratically and called it a nuisance. Legislators also rapped the management of MSD saying that they were running it haphazardly. Medicines, they said, were almost always out of stock while huge quantities of expired imports had to be destroyed. Many suggested that since the department is a continual loss factor, it should be disbanded.

Dr Mwinyi also said that it is difficult for the government to offer up to standard health services to the public because it has only half the required team of medical workers on its pay roll. However, he added, the number of health workers increases yearly.

He told fellow legislators that the nation should be able to rope in the remaining 50 per cent of the workforce by 2015. He also informed the National Assembly that between 2007 and 2008 a total of 3,025 new health workers were engaged.

In 2011/12 a further 5,173 new workers were recruited. He added that by 2015 the nation will have the capacity to engage 10,000 new medical workers and be able to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals (DMGs). The minister also said that at times some medical workers refuse to remain in their work stations. Dr Mwinyi instructed District Medical Officers to ensure that new medical officers remain in their work stations.

He also said that new medical workers will be asked where they wish to be posted and their choices will be respected, unless there are unforeseen impediments. The minister received a standing ovation from delighted legislators when he said that the nation has succeeded in reducing child mortality significantly. He added that deaths among under-five year olds had been scaled down by 45 per cent.

He added that deaths among under one-year-olds had been trimmed down by 49 per cent through careful implementation of the Integrated Childhood Illness Control Programme which has seen a reduction in malaria infections and 90 per cent success in vaccinations.

He told the House that mortality among pregnant women had been reduced from 578 deaths to 454 per 1,000 but was quick to add that this figure (454) was still high and unacceptable. He said that efforts to reduce deaths among pregnant women would continue.

He, however, said that some of the factors that lead to the deaths of pregnant women, especially in rural areas were beyond the ability of his ministry's control. Poor feeding, especially in rural areas, sometimes lead to birth complications that result in death.

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