President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday directed the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to collaborate with the police force to ensure continuous and sustainable search for medicine allegedly stolen and then sold to private medic shops in the country.
He said the move would help uncover theft and ultimately enable action to be taken against people suspected to possess government medicines illegally, and in turn the medicines reache traders who sell to private shops.
The President issued the order in Dar es Salaam in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister for Health Dr Hussein Mwinyi during the inauguration of the Medical Stores Department MSD state-of-the-art warehouse.
Standing on a 4,280 square metres and having a capacity of preserving medicines and other medical facilities for upcountry regions, the facility was constructed with US government and Global Fund assistance valued at $ 4 million (approximately Sh6.4 billion).
The President said he was aware that the situation of the medical supplies in public hospitals in rural areas is unsatisfactory for lack government medicines and other medical facilities, noting that they were available for sale in some private medical shops or hospitals.
He asked the two government bodies to partner in ensuring an effective control of illegal sale of government medicines and other facilities, expressing concern that such illegal sale was alarming, causing loss to the people and government of Tanzania.
“The government cannot continue purchasing medicines at higher cost and ultimately the bulk ends up in hands of unscrupulous traders, leaving the majority…especially rural people to die,” he said and asked the two bodies “to work effectively using available resources to stop the illegal practice once and for all.”
Also President Kikwete thanked the US government for supporting the project as well as MSD workers’ office and canteen. He also thanked the Government of Canada through CIDA in collaboration with UNICEF for financing special walk-in cold rooms.
The two agencies also donated two refrigerated vehicles, 32 generators; 26 of which have a 40 KVA. They cost three million Canadian dollars, equivalent to Sh4.5 billion.
The 26 generators are installed in cold rooms almost in all the country’s regions, thereby increasing the preservation capacity for medicine from 46,561 cubic liters to 97,144 cubic liters. This is the recommended preservation capacities for three months at national and regional levels.
The two refrigerated vehicles will be used for the transportation of needed medicines to upcountry regions from MSD head office in Dar es Salaam. The vehicles help facilitate availability of medicines to people in flung areas.
MSD Acting Director General Cosmas Mwaifwani stressed the need to continue supplying medicines and other medical facilities to centres according to government directives.
He said in an interview with The Guardian on Sunday that his unit has two strategies to enable the police and ministry officials to identify government medicines during their operation, for example, noting that all packages of the medicines will bear the MSD emblem alongside that of TBS.
This would prevent tampering by unscrupulous people while the medicines are in transit. Secondly, there would be direct medicine deliveries to rural dispensaries or medical centres.
The deliveries are made directly to district or regional hospitals that in turn supply the bulk to the designated medical centers. He said the MSD emblem would enable police to identify the product belongs to government and nothing else.
On general performance, he noted that 10 regions have been entered into a regular system of supplying medicines directly from one medical centre to the other. Additionally, there are efforts to ensure the system is applicable to the rest of the regions by July this year.
This is in a bid to curb loses that might be caused leading to mysterious disappearance of medicines, mentioning that his organization has installed a system known as EPICOR to facilitate supply of medicines and other medical facilities. The US provided funds to introduce the system through USAID.