The Medical Stores Department (MSD) has told the Parliamentary Parastatal Organisations Accounts Committee (POAC) that increased demand for drugs and other supplies has caused serious shortages in public hospitals.
MSD Director General Joseph Mgaya revealing this said the actual demand for drugs for the country’s health facilities currently stands at 150bn/-, adding that surprisingly the budget is only 78bn/- (about 50 percent) for the 20111/12 financial year.
He said drugs and equipment procurement estimates for the 2012/13 financial year will be 198bn/-, adding that “currently the drugs availability situation in the country stands at 80 percent.”
Presenting the department’s performance report to the parliamentary committee yesterday, Mgaya said the nation is much dependent on imported medicines and health equipment than from locally made goods.
“This is because the contribution of domestic medical industries is very minimal,” he said, advising the committee in collaboration with the government to look into other ways of solving the problems.
"...Uganda has established a very sound system which has helped attract investors into the pharmaceutical industry and they are now assured of availability of high quality drugs. But one more important thing is that it is the government which buys the locally made drugs for public use. This has helped a lot in reducing the burden the country is experiencing,” Mgaya explained.
In order to work on the department’s call, POAC instructed MSD management to prepare proposals aimed at empowering domestic pharmaceutical firms to cope up with market competition and to help refrain from imported medicine dependence.
POAC chairman Kabwe Zitto called on the government to ensure domestic pharmaceutical companies are empowered to manufacture quality and standard drugs and health equipment.
Committee members have also directed the department to stake own premises to store imported drugs instead of leaving the same to overstay at the ports.
“They have to look for places to keep the medicines, as the government is working out to solve the problem of overstaying MSD goods at the port,” Kabwe said.
In the July parliament last year, the department was attacked over shoddy performance with MPs accusing it of failing to fully implement its tasks of procuring, storing and distributing medicine and medical equipment.
Those who spoke at a seminar for legislators hosted in collaboration with the Health and Social Welfare ministry, said the fact that many hospitals and health centres lacked medicine and equipment proved that the MSD had failed to fulfill its obligations.
Some went to the extent of calling for the introduction of MSD of its present.
Meanwhile, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) lawmakers yesterday reacted
angrily after they discovered a 6bn/- loss in Health and Social Welfare ministry incurred during the 2010/2011 fiscal year due to delivery failure of medical equipment and supply of expiry drugs.
This was revealed when the committee met with the ministry officials whereby among other things the former went through the latter’s audited accounts for the 2010/11 financial year.
According to committee vice chairperson Zainab Vullu, the ministry recorded a loss of 1.6bn/- due to delivery failure of medical equipment, while a staggering 4.7bn/- was due to supply of expiry drugs.
She ordered the ministry to come up with strategies to end the disparities saying they have always earned it disqualified certificates.
PAC Chairperson John Cheyo was more concerned with MSD’s high spending in imported goods clearance saying it spends between 16bn/- and 20bn/- per annum in clearance fees. This, he added contributed to hiked drug prices.
Besides, he said, the department has its debts growing every year currently standing at 45bn/-.
Cheyo questioned why the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) charged MSD highest rates in drugs inspection while both agencies fall under the ministry and their employees are paid salary by the government.
Elaborating he said the government through MSD imports drugs worth 200bn/- per annum, whereby it pays TFDA two percent of the amount for inspection.
Meanwhile, the Ministry’s Acting Permanent Secretary, Regina Kikuli said that most of the drugs from donors have to be cleared by the beneficiaries, adding that Tanzania receives drugs worth 600bn/- from development partners which have to be cleared at the cost of 60bn/-.
Kikuli said such costs have also contributed to MSD’s increasing debts.
“We are always entitled to search for funds to clear imported drugs. The cost is normally ten percent of the cost of imported consignments,” she said.
According to her, Tanzania depends on drugs from development partners for diseases such as Tuberculosis (TB), Malaria, HIV/Aids, Cancer and leprosy.
For his part, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Donan Mmbando said they have come up with an integrated logistic system which requires MSD clients to order drugs depending on demand.
He said in some cases drugs expire because clients order drugs that are not required in their areas.
According to the Abuja declaration, African countries are suppose to set aside 15 percent of their budgets for the health sector, but in Tanzania the Health ministry has been receiving small budgets whereby in 2005/06 it was allocated 11.6 percent, down to 10.2 percent in 2010/2011 and down again to 9.7 percent this year.