Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Matthews Ngwale has asked the Ministry of Health what it is doing to address drug shortage, especially in district hospitals.
Ngwale, who made the remarks in Parliament yesterday as a follow up to a question he had submitted to the minister earlier, noted that as of October 2021, most district hospitals had run down their drug budgets, but according to the nine-month financial year that Malawi is in, most hospitals were supposed to have spent 46 percent of their budgets.
“According to a study that was recently conducted, only three districts have spent according to this requirement. Nsanje has spent 44 percent, Ntchisi 43 percent and Nkhata Bay 42 percent. However, there are 14 districts which have spent their drug budgets above the 46 percent threshold; and there are 11 districts that have spent a lot more than expected,” he said.
Among others, by October, Lilongwe had spent 80 percent of the budget; Kasungu 76 percent, Likoma Island 74 percent; Salima 72 percent; Neno 68 percent, Dedza 63 percent; Chiradzulu 61 percent, and Blantyre 60 percent. And by now, the expenditures have gone a lot more.
Considering that this is to do with life, Ngwale wanted the ministry to appraise the nation on its plans to alleviate the problem as people are not receiving medicines when they go to hospitals.
“There is need for a rescue plan,” he said.
But in response, Deputy Minister of Health Chrissie Kalamula Kanyasho said the ministry was aware of the shortage and attributed it to procurement hiccups.
“It is a procurement issue but as government we are on top of it and are working hard to ensure that the problem is solved,” she said.
Kanyasho also noted that sometimes, directors of health and social services under-source or under-report their drug needs, and as a result when they are given their portion, the drugs run out quickly.
“We also know that there are some shenanigans going on in the district hospitals, and we are following up on these reports to ensure that drugs go to the right people and that every drug is accounted for,” she said.
But Ngwale seemed unimpressed with the minister’s response, arguing that between now and when the budget will be approved something should be done to address the problem.