There is growing skeptism on whether the revised drug and pharmaceuticals budget will attain the desirable health outcomes as reports indicate that some of the district hospitals have already depleted half of their 2017/2018 drug budgets.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace has faulted government for drawing budgets which are not responsive to the demographic realities on the ground.
Speaking on Thursday in Karonga Zonal Health Officer for the north, Owen Musopole, disclosed that due to drug over consumption in the 2016/2017 financial year, not much has been done to cushion the gaps created.
Giving an example of Karonga District Hospital which has so far depleted 177 percent of its annual drug budget, Musopole said the development does not paint a rosy picture nationally.
He said the prevailing consumption trends by district hospitals foretell a persistent problem of drug stock-outs and has thus called for concerted efforts among stakeholders and communities in enforcing corrective measures.
“We have raised concern over how quick our facilities tend to deplete their annual drug budgets. The problem is multifaceted and measures are being put in place to correct the situation but at the same not compromise on drug supply,” Musopole said.
After realising the extent of the problem, last week Secretary for Health, Dan Namalika, wrote the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) to continue supplying drugs to district health facilities that have exhausted their annual allocations.
Caritas Secretary for the CCJP in the Karonga Diocese, Mwawi Shaba, recently wondered why government continues to live in denial by underfunding the country’s DHOs.
“Drug theft and pilferage yes, but it is high time we accepted that our budget lines are far from meeting the demands on the ground. We wish government rendered a listening ear on that one,” Shaba said.
For instance, government approved an average drug budget of K10 million for the new Nkhata Bay district hospital instead of the recommended K58 million.
Speaking in a separate interview, Executive Director for the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN), George Jobe, concurred with Shaba and decried that government has been adamant to increase drug budgets for districts.
Despite making a provision of K18 billion to the national drug budget which is expected to get a K34 billion boost from development partners, the districts’ drug budget still stands at around K10 billion.
He said: “Hearing that some hospitals are already consuming their 2017/2018 drug budget cuts, only substantiates what we have been advocating for. Need I say that we have not done enough in establishing why this is the case? There is need to enhance our monitoring system.”
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