Zimbabwe: Essential Medicines Available in Public Hospitals - Says Govt - MPs Dispute 'Lie'

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Health minister, last week told Parliament that all public health institutions have essential medicines.

This is despite several reports highlighting critical shortages of medicines and basic supplies in hospitals.

A quarterly survey, Vital Medicines Availability and Health Services Survey (VMAHS) conducted in 2022, cited by Chiwenga reads: "Ninety-Six percent of health facilities in Zimbabwe surveyed in the 2nd quarter of 2022 had at least 80% of essential medicines in stock.

"This was shown in the Vital Medicines Availability and Health Services Survey (VMAHS), which is conducted every quarter, by an independent agency. The Vital Medicines Availability and Health Services Survey also showed that 88% of health facilities had at least 80% availability of selected antibiotics."

The VP added: "In a nutshell, Madam Speaker, essential medicines are generally available. The level and range of stocks could certainly be better".

According to Chiwenga, anti-retroviral, anti-malarial and anti-tuberculosis drugs stocks have remained adequate over the years.

"To ensure improved availability of commodities, my Ministry continues to lobby the Treasury for timely payment towards the capacitation of NatPharm.

"In addition, NatPharm was recently paid all outstanding debts owed by our health facilities."

He further admitted there existed a gap in funding of medicines.

Despite legislators disputing the VP's report, Chiwenga revealed that the 2022 Vital Medicines Availability and Health Services Survey showed that 78% of Zimbabwe's district hospitals had fully functional operating theatres to perform emergency maternity surgery, whilst 93% had kits for resuscitating the new-born.

"My Ministry is in dialogue with the Treasury to have the Health Levy Fund reinstated back to a ring-fenced fund. This would go a long way towards the availability of medicines, equipment and sundries for the health sector.

"There are plans to procure more radiotherapy machines, and strategically distribute them across the country, to ensure equitable access by all citizens," added Chiwenga.

Legislators disputed the VP's statement arguing his presentation differed with the dire situation in hospitals.

"You said that the essential medicines are readily available. Marondera hospital has no paracetamol; it has no bandages and I am talking about the emergency services.

"If someone is involved in a road accident and they go there, they are asked to buy their own bandages. If you ask for any pain killers, they will ask you to go to the pharmacy to buy those things," Marondera Central MP Caston Mateu said.

Makoni Central legislator David Tekeshe pleaded for an urgent redress of the situation, adding, "l know that you are a busy man and because you do not visit every hospital, they lie to you that there are medicines in hospitals.

"The truth is there is nothing called medicine in the hospitals. I am pleading with you to please find medicines for the hospitals. I also request if you are able to also supply hospitals with medicines for rabies."

Chiwenga in response, agreed to the said shortages: "Yes, there is no country which can be 100% self-reliant but we must be able to have enough drugs to save our people."

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