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LOBAMBA – Government is dicing with the lives of Swazis as it has admitted that hospitals across the country do not have medicines.

The reason is that government has failed to pay its suppliers who it owes millions of Emalangeni. 

This was admitted by the Principal Secretary (PS) at the Ministry of Health Dr Simon Zwane when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on a different issue yesterday.
This worrying fact was brought to the fore by Mayiwane Member of Parliament (MP) Eric Matsebula, who asked the PS why the country’s public hospitals were out of medication.


“I was called by the elderly last night informing me that they had been advised to go to pharmacies as there were no drugs and they wanted me to give them money, what is really happening,” said Matsebula.  
The MPs further highlighted that it was not just one drug that was unavailable, but across the whole board.

Manzini North MP Jan Sithole said this was an emergency and that the PS should call his emergency team as soon as he left Parliament.
“This one actually needs for the Speaker to call the House so that we can call the Minister of Health and make a decision on what can be done to ensure that the money is released so that the medication can be bought,” said Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini.
Dr Zwane said it was true that the country did not have various medication and offered to write a report on how the country had found itself in this particular position.

He said this was not a matter of whether tablets for the epilectic or those with diabetes was short, but across the board the problem was financial, noting that there was a problem with the release of money.
He said when the tenders for the delivery of drugs were awarded government and the suppliers entered into contracts, which had schedules on when they would be delivered and when they would be paid.

“We have not paid our suppliers,” said the PS.
He said as a result they had not delivered because government had not paid them.
Further, he stated that although the drugs had been ordered payment had to be made first.
Dr Zwane who was seated next to the Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Finance Bheki Bhembe, however, did not state who was failing to release the money.
“There is a problem with the release of money and I admit asikemi kahle emitsini (we do not have enough medication).” 
PAC Chairperson Thuli Dladla said it was clear that Zwane was afraid of shifting the blame to Bhembe who was seated next to him.
Sithole again said this was an emergency and they could not wait until the ministry delivered a report and therefore supported the suggestion that the MP lobby each other for an urgent House sitting.
“Some people are on drugs that they can’t miss not even for a single day and it is important that the matter is given the urgency it deserves,” said Sithole.
After the meeting Zwane was asked by this reporter to state how much the suppliers were owed, to which he responded by saying “it’s too large a figure I am scared to say it.”
On another note the Public Enterprise Unit (PEU), yesterday also told the PAC that the Good Shepherd Hospital was a Catergory A government parastatal.
She said that this meant that it was wholly owned by government or that government was the majority shareholder.
However, this did not go down well with the PAC which asked if that was the case, why did the hospital charge more than what other hospitals charged?
The PEU was also taken to task for allowing the hospital to go on operating without a Board in place.
“Who is accountable for the money that was given to them,” wondered Matsanjeni North MP Phila Buthelezi.
As a result the PAC directed that the Ministry of Health, Finance, PEU and the hospital’s mission to have a meeting as soon as possible and map out clearly how the hospital would be run. 
They also wanted to see the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between government and the hospital.

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