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MATSAPHA - SwaziPharm Wholesalers is set to destroy expired medical supplies worth E20 million and blames it on what it called criminal negligence on government’s side.

These developments were revealed by SwaziPharm Wholesalers (Pty) Ltd Director Kareem Ashraf, at the wholesale premises in Matsapha, where he was welcoming officials from the Ministry of Heath, led by the Principal Secretary (PS) Khanya Mabuza. He said he found himself in a difficult position, as while he was to host the officials from the ministry, he was also saddened by the current health situation in the country. Ashraf said almost every day, innocent lives were being lost in hospitals, because of the shortage of medical drugs.


“Patients are being turned away from hospitals because there are no drugs,” he said. He said in another troubling development, they understood that maternity units in hospitals were grappling with a surge of infant mortality rates, which was something that prompted questions about the adequacy of essential supplies. He noted that the crisis was intensifying concerns among medical professionals and stakeholders, with accusations pointing towards a critical shortage of specialised products crucial for neonatal care. Thereafter, he said for years, SwaziPharm Wholesalers, as an example, had been a key supplier of medical drugs and specialised neonatal products, to both the private and government sectors.


He said among others, the company was awarded a substantial contract, Tender No. 2 Intensive Care, worth E80 million, which was intended for maternity and intensive care unit (ICU) use in neonates and infants. Ashraf said, like all suppliers, after getting these tenders, SwaziPharm Wholesalers then met government officials in the relevant portfolios and agreed on how these medical drugs should be supplied. He explained that these discussions and arrangements assisted and enabled them to plan and engage their manufacturers and place orders in anticipation that drugs would be delivered monthly, in order to supply government on time, and meet its monthly demands. “However, despite this significant investment and planning, a cloud of uncertainty looms over the effective utilisation of these supplies,” the director said, while adding that the medical industry was a delicate, specialised and unique one. In that regard, he said once they made orders and commitments to manufacturers, they then started to produce these drugs and further package them for government, which was different from any other packaging. He said this meant stock that had been ordered to supply government could not be diverted and sold somewhere else.


He said every month they received stock from manufacturers, as per the tender and standing arrangements, then wait for orders to supply the specific medical drugs. However, he said the past 12 months had been the most challenging period, as they waited for orders to come, but nothing came, yet stock had been piling up in their warehouse. “Today (yesterday), as SwaziPharm Wholesalers, we can confirm that we will destroy medical supplies worth E20 million, because it has been sitting at the warehouse until it expired. We will also spend not less than E3.2 million to burn the drugs,” the director said. He said these medical supplies and drugs were the very same drugs that patients were crying for in government hospitals.

He said it was painful to watch medical drugs expire, patients dying and newborns losing their lives, because of shortage of stock in hospitals, while as SwaziPharm Wholesalers, they had these medicines in stock and had the tender to supply. “To us, it seems the health crisis is self-created and we wonder as to why are emaSwati put at such a risk when medical drugs are stocked at suppliers,” the director said. He questioned why government was giving orders to suppliers that did not have stock, at exorbitant costs, and leaving those who had it (stock) at hand and at the agreed upon tender price. He said due to such practice or conduct, as SwaziPharm Wholesalers they were preparing to burn the expired medical supplies.


He said the tender process which was meant to secure sufficient stock with a suitable shelf life and ensure its availability to government at a moment’s notice, had allegedly become a precarious dance with expiration dates. He said government’s failure to order in a timely manner had resulted in aging stock, which was an incredibly heart-breaking spectacle of wasted life-saving potential. Ashraf explained that in their pursuit of rectifying SwaziPharm Wholesalers as a business, they uncovered tales of backstabbing, accusations of corruption and shocking incompetence within the Ministry of Health. “This happened while we diligently held stock for government, valuable medicines languished due to mismanagement and what can only be described as criminal negligence,” Ashraf said. He added that SwaziPharm Wholesalers had to endure serious financial burdens, defamation and stock losses, but they persisted, while they were witnessing precious lives being lost due to a broken supply chain. However, the director was quick to highlight that the new government brought hope as its commitment to placing orders and making payments were already starting to show.


Furthermore, he said the destruction of the E20 million drugs symbolised, not just monetary loss, but the tragic expiration of life-saving potential and a sombre reminder of the systemic failures that cost over 2 000 lives of emaSwati. “As SwaziPharm Wholesalers, we stand resolute and ready. We offer our expertise, our unwavering commitment and even the sacrifice of freely giving away unsellable stock to support the recovery of our health system,” the director said. Moreover, he said SwaziPharm Wholesalers, which was the sole ISO certified wholesaler in the country for the longest time, understood the sensitivity of managing medicines with a limited shelf life. Again, he said in spite of financial challenges and ongoing losses, they extended their hand in partnership, to assist in healing the nation. He said their plea was simple, yet urgent; “Do not let this opportunity slip away. Let us work together to ensure that our sacrifices so far and these donations, do not go to waste.”

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