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Health workers at centre of drug theft

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By Rebecca Chimjeka:

A cartel behind the theft of medical drugs in the country’s public health facilities is being exposed as syndicates of those at the core of drug peddling have been busted.

Malawi news understands that some workers in various public hospitals have been diverting stolen drugs to their private clinics while others have been diverting the medicines to their private pharmacies.

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However, as of Tuesday morning, about 41 people, including health workers, had been arrested after being found with multimillion dollar medical drugs in some of the districts.

The drugs include Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, antibiotics, morphine and syringes among other medical supplies.

For example in Chikwawa at Ndakwera Health Centre, medical assistant in charge of the facility, Emmanuel Mumba got arrested by the police on August 8 2018 following the disappearance of anti malarial drugs and the case is in court.

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At Chikwawa District Hospital, Mark Moses, a laboratory technician and Nema Suzumile, a switchboard operator are in custody over similar issues while at Mapelera Health Centre, medical assistant was arrested over a missing solar panel.

On August 30 2018, the community of Mapelera discovered that a solar panel was missing from the roof of the health centre. Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango confirmed arrests of scores of medical personnel and has since revealed that all the involved officers have been suspended from duties, in line with provisions under the Malawi Public Services Regulations.

“This is an on-going process. However, the success also depends on community engagement and also the good relationship which we have with our partners from Malawi Police Services who we are working with day and night” Malango said.

A video that has gone viral on WhatsApp and Facebook showing a scramble for drugs that have

been stolen from Katuli Health Centre in Mangochi is another example of how medical drugs are being stolen in various hospitals and health centres.

Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi confirmed to Malawi News about theft of drugs at Katuli Health Centre, adding the alleged criminals were employees of the health centre. Police investigations are currently underway and Muluzi assured Malawians that those involved will most likely be dismissed from work to answer for their crimes in a criminal court.

He said the Katuli incident is not an isolated one, stressing there have been instances where high level security personnel have managed to bust syndicates out.

“The theft of drugs by anyone at any step of the supply chain is a very serious crime. Not only is it theft, which is a criminal act, it is also stealing [and] in some cases, the difference between life and death for a fellow Malawian which for me is a far worse crime,” Muluzi said.

He went on to add that the health ministry has zero tolerance for anyone stealing drugs or medical supplies and to that effect, personnel from the ministry, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and other key development partners have started implementing an end-to-end tracking system aimed at tightening security and control of medical drugs and resources.

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