The country’s District Health Officers (DHOs) have faulted the system of purchasing drugs through the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) which they argue is not making drugs available in hospitals.
“When we request drugs from CMST, we keep on getting less than what we requested. For instance, we get 30 percent of the request. It could have been better if we were to use other alternatives. If we cannot get the drugs from X [CMST] why not allow us to get the drugs from Y [other suppliers]?” said Blantyre DHO Medson Matchaya.
He suggested that the purchase of drugs should be handled at district level.
“We are not against the centralised system. We just need flexibility. But if we were to be given an opportunity, I would say don’t centralise it. It should be decentralised to the districts with a separate account,” he said.
He was speaking yesterday at Parliament Building when he and fellow DHOs Jerome Nkhambule and Charles Sungani of Kasungu and Karonga respectively appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Health.
Commenting on the issue, Sungani said in Karonga they stayed for a long time without Hepatitis B test kits while Nkhambule said Kasungu District Hospital at the moment does not have, among others, rabies vaccines.
The DHOs said measures government put in place to deal with drug pilferage may not serve their purpose as there are no drugs to pilfer in the hospitals.
Lilongwe City Centre MP, David Bisnowaty, asked the DHOs whether they are not sabotaging the system, looking at the fact that they are not happy with it.
But Nkhambule said the DHOs cannot do that.
“DHOs are not sabotaging the system. We are at the receiving end. We have actually been defending it. We have been trying to make it work,” he said.
Chairperson of the committee, Juliana Lunguzi, said a number of stakeholders will be invited over the issue.
“We will try to hear from different stakeholders on the issue of drug shortages in our hospitals. This meeting will be as open as possible so that we hear all issues relating to drug shortage in our hospitals,” she said.
Police officers, led by Central Region Commissioner George Kainja, attended the meeting as observers.
Other observers were representatives from Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen).
Central Medical Stores is expected to appear before the committee today.
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