By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
The fact is no longer in contest.
There is an established critical shortage of medicines and medical supplies in hospitals, Clinics and health centres in Zambia in the last six months.
The number of loss of lives attributed directly to this sad development is yet to be made public. This is because, during this period, the Ministry of Health has not bought any medicines, has refused to pay previous suppliers, has abolished the Procurement Unit and is in the process of picking “new” suppliers.
The portfolio Minister, Hon Sylvia Masebo proceeded to abolish all boards and management of sub-sector entities involved in the regulatory and distribution of drugs.
Further it is extremely surprising to hear Hon. Masebo, in her Ministerial Statement in Parliament, express ignorant shock that Hospitals have not taken the initiative to buy medicines and medical supplies using administrative and operational grants that the Ministry has disbursed!
She even dares to accuse hospital administrators of having masters elsewhere ( PF) other than the current Government!
This statement alone is a scandal on its own!
Does she expect Hospitals to utilise administrative and operational funds, to buy medicines? Does she expect Administrators to take quotations from the streets and buy medicines from there? Does she know how public funds are utilized? Has she read the Auditor General’s Reports? Is her request for such an initiative even legal in Zambia?
Her last stay at a Ministry ( Ministry of Tourism) in 2012 ended in tears as she was arrested and arraigned before the court of law for abuse of office and interfering in the procurement process as a Minister…guess nothing has changed in her outlook.
Has she heard of ZAMRA?
The Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority is the Statutory Body established under an Act of Parliament; the Medicines and Allied Substances Act No. 3 of 2013 to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, storage distribution, supply, sale and use of medicines and allied substances.
Has the Minister heard about Medical Stores Limited (MSL) now transformed as the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA), an autonomous government agency established under the companies act with the express objective of furnishing to the nation good quality drugs and various medical equipment and supplies?
Over the years, the Ministry of Health, its development and cooperating assistance partners have invested substantial amounts of money in the public-sector drug procurement and distribution system. Zambia has a well-functioning supply chain for essential medicines.
Zambia has a three-tier system with storage of medicines and medical supplies at each level (Storage at National Distribution Center, District Health Office and Health Facility).
Government constructed regional hubs in line with Government’s decentralization policy, across the country.
By criminalizing all companies that supply medicines and medical supplies, by firing all Permanent Secretaries, by dissolving all boards at ZAMMSA and ZAMRA, and by abolishing the procurement unit, Masebo is trying to re-invent the wheel and not cleaning up.
What Masebo and her technical staff are currently doing is to dismantle a heavily invested in, well-established and well-functioning system built over the years.
Clearly, this wayward gamble by Masebo has cost many dear lives as a result of lack of medicines at hospitals, clinics and health centres in the last six months.
Who will pay for the loss of these lives?
Isn’t life sacred with the New Dawn Government?