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STILL SHORTAGE OF DRUGS DESPITE GOVT’S EFFORTS

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MANZINI – Despite government’s efforts to improve the availability of medication by adding 50 per cent to the allocation of drugs, the shortage is still there.

The Ministry of Health, at the end of the past financial year ended March 31, 2022, had spent E1 035 147 109.43 on medical drugs, with a recurrent expenditure of E884 368 584.22.
This is because when comparing the year ended March 31, 2022 with the previous financial year, there is an increase in the expenditure of E345 146 948.92. The amount of money spent by the ministry on medical drugs increased from E690 000 160.51 (expenditure in financial year ended March 31, 2021) to E1 035 147 109.43. This is an almost 50 per cent increment.

Shortage

Meanwhile, as there is the shortage of drugs and pharmaceuticals in government health facilities, the Auditor General, Timothy Matsebula, on the consolidated government accounts for the financial year ended March 31, 2021, said unappropriated recurrent expenditure of medical drugs amounting to E4 492, 44.88 while in the same period, there was an under expenditure of E8 997 068.90. On the other hand, Matsebula in his report, noted that there was missing stock worth E128 452.22, reported as a difference between Central Medical Stores (CMS) physical count and the Government Accounting System balance. The financial statement disclosed the missing stock as a difference between physical count by the CMS and Government Accounting System.

Meanwhile, to the shortage of drugs despite the improved resources, Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) Secretary General (SG) Mayibongwe Masangane, said there was a need for the ministry to improve its method of engaging in a stock count of the pharmaceuticals and medication supplied to hospitals.

Stock

He said their members had relayed that in some regions, stock was kept in the offices of administration members, due to lack of space. Masangane said this resulted in the officers delegating to an individual to collect the medicines. Once this happened, he said, it was hard to track the stock as it could be written in a piece of paper that ended up being lost. The unionist said they had gathered that some public health facilities were sharing a warehouse, which could come across as cost cutting; however, the security measures were weak. Meanwhile, Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health Dr Simon Zwane, in a previous report, said: “There are controls in place but not necessarily strong enough across all facilities.” Dr Zwane said the Auditor General, Timothy Matsebula, was carrying out an investigation to establish the challenges.

He said some of the known causes were the inaccurate forecasting of commodities, leading to over or under supply, the shrinking supplier base due to a number of reasons including payment tendencies (United States of America Dollar (USD) against the local currency Lilangeni (SZL). The PS said there was also the issue of unfavorable economies of scale. In explaining this, he said, the Kingdom of Eswatini’s quantities of commodities were very small compared to other countries.

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