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Cancer patients buying own medication

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For a second month running, cancer patients at the country’s biggest referral hospital, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), are buying part of their medication as the hospital is running without one of the key drugs.
QECH has been without Dexamethasone, which is given as a starter to all cancer patients before they get chemotherapy.
When we first reported the shortage of Dexamethasone, in November, Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, blamed the shortage on Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) which supplies drugs to all public hospitals.
Malango said the drug was out of stock at the Trust but claimed it would be restocked as soon as possible. But we have established that the key drug remains out of stock.
Malango said the CMST still does not have the drugs in stock.
“The Ministry of Health stopped selling the drugs and instead all public health facilities buy the drugs from Central Medical Stores Trust which does not have them as we speak. We are still engaging them because we know that the drug is important but there are other alternative medicines which our doctors are using,” he said.
But our sources at the hospital say the hospital does not have any alternatives for the drugs and that is why the cancer patients are being asked to buy the drug from private pharmacies if they are to get chemotherapy.
The cancer patients, who we spoke to, confirmed being sent back without getting Chemotherapy if they fail to
buy their own Dexamethasone from private pharmacies.
“I came yesterday [Thursday] to get my medication but I was sent back. The doctors said they did not have one of the drugs.
I had to borrow money to buy my own medicines which was not the case in the past,” she said.
Deputy Head of Cancer Unit at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Petani Mtonga, recently told Times that the hospital treat over 90 patients every day.
Dexamethasone is also given to expectant mothers expected to give birth to premature babies. It helps the babies’ lungs to mature.

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