Most district hospitals in the country were close to exhausting their funding for buying drugs with about six months to go before the next national budget is implemented, according to a Mid-Year Report on the Health sector covering July to December 2013.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) K11 billion (US$27 295 285.4) tender for essential drugs is only expected in April.
The 2013/14 Mid-Year Report on the health sector came under the spotlight on Friday during the joint mid-year review of the sector and it indicated that by December 31 2013, district hospitals had already spent K5.9 billion (US$14 640 199) of the K9.9 billion (US$245 657 576) allocated to the district health offices (DHOs).
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said Malawians would start to feel the effects of Cashgate as donors continue to withhold money.
“The health sector has always relied on donors, and we have left them to manage it. With Cashgate, it will be the rural Malawian who cannot access private hospitals, who require transfers to referral who will feel the effects of Cashgate now,” Kapito said.
For example, facilities such as Karonga, Chitipa, Mulanje, Mwanza, Machinga, and Salima district hospitals as well as Mzuzu Central Hospital and Blantyre DHO had less than 40 percent of the budgeted drugs left.
Of the K488 million allocated to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), K210 million had already been spent by December 31 2013 whereas Mangochi District Hospital was only remaining with 25 percent of its K185 million allocation for the year.
The report said those hospitals which had not spent at least half of the drug budget by December 31 2013 due to lack of drugs at CMST would need more funds to replenish their stocks.
Despite assurances from government officials that there were enough drugs in hospitals, the report also indicates stockouts of essential drugs such as antibiotics, paracetamol, malaria drugs and other supplies such as syringes, oral rehydration salts and glucose.
Commenting on the expected shortage of resources for buying drugs, Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara said they were aware that the budget for hospitals would not be adequate to last the financial year and had requested donors to ease the pressure.
However, following revelations of theft of public resources, donors have pulled out funding promised to the pool fund and have only disbursed K36.2 billion (US$89 826 3032) out of K64 billion(US$158 808 933) going through the government system.
The Ministry of Health donor partners who do not contribute to the pool fund among them African Development Bank, Unicef, UNFPA and Centre for Disease Control have only provided K1.6 billion of the expected K8.4 billion.
Norway has assisted government with $8.5 million (K3.2 billion) for the procurement of drugs and other supplies to arrive in hospitals for free between March and April but contracted Unicef to carry out the purchase and distribution.
Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) is expected to procure essential medicines and supplies for nine months worth $15 million (about K6.5 billion) for delivery this month or early next month to CMST for sale to hospitals.
The minister asked hospital management to prioritise on the available funding so that crucial areas are not left uncovered before the next round of funding.