Drug shortages worsen as Drs’ strike continues

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Picture taken on January 15, 2012 in Lille, northern France, of drug capsules. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The healthcare services sector keeps on on deteriorating resulting in a severe drug shortage that has seen public hospitals in Harare turning away patients who need vital care.

The Mail and Telegraph reported on the industrial action taken by junior doctors and radiographers, which was followed by the partial stay away of nurses, events which have only worsened  the nation’s health crisis.

Currently, patients are being given referrals for treatment for dates in  2019 by which time it may be too late for the more severe cases.

In an interview yesterday, a Harare based senior doctor who spoke on the grounds of anonymity, said central hospitals were failing to accommodate patients with serious injuries and illnesses.

At high level hospitals people are being sent home without operations, being sent home without treatment, middle level hospitals cannot refer anymore to the central hospitals.

“Central hospitals have stopped accepting referrals they only take dire emergencies,” he said.

“Dire emergencies” were now limited to maternity cases, cases of chest trauma, internal haemorrhaging or head trauma as found in serious road traffic accidents, the doctor said.

He described Zimbabwe’s healthcare system as broken since  doctors were incapable of providing even basic surgeries which resulted in people dying in “massive numbers” due to  inadequate treatment.

If there is a break in the chain the system does not work, the biggest break right now is in pharmacy supply, we cannot do operations people cannot get drugs people are dying at central hospitals.

“They are being discharged and they are dying a few days later at home,” he said.

The doctor blamed the “fallacy of the bond note” as the centre of the health crisis as medical suppliers refused to believe that it was equal to the United States dollar as stated by the government.

“Most suppliers of drugs and medical consumables, if not all, are demanding US dollars in light of the fact that the bond does not work.

“No one wants the bond note and hospitals get their money from their medical aid and public institutions and are told to accept it because they are being told 1 is to 1 so all their money is in their bank accounts as a result,” he said.

Last month, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the government was attempting “moral persuasion” on pharmaceutical companies that rejected the bond note as payment.

Ncube said if this  failed, government as a last resort, would have to intervene through allocating resources through the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm), in order to provide drugs in the local currency.

Our source said that NatPharm was incapable of meeting the Zimbabwe’s drug requirements.

NatPharm has got maybe 20 percent of what is needed, NatPharm are not competent to handle all requirements of medical centres countrywide, they cannot handle public hospitals they cannot handle public institution requirements,” he said.