Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe yesterday omitted to explain how government would deal with the drug crisis that has paralysed the country.
Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume this week said in a statement in Parliament that public hospitals have nearly exhausted most of their drug budgets, a move that could worsen the drug situation in public hospitals.
Kumpalume said most district hospitals may not stock drugs and supplies as district health offices (DHOs) used up more than half of their funding for drugs six months before the next budget.
For example, he said, Ntcheu DHO has used 87 percent of the funding; Dedza 80 percent, Mulanje 71 percent, Thyolo 82 percent and Karonga 80 percent of its drug budget.
The Health Minister put the stock availability at Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) at 30 percent between July and December, explaining that the ministry looked at whether for that specific item the volumes was enough to cover one month’s supply.
“Even though CMST report 60 percent stock of must have drugs, this figure is based on whether that item is available irrespective of whether the volume is sufficient or not,” he said.
Kumpalume said CMST is yet to honour orders for most public hospitals.
He disclosed that government disbursed about K7.3 billion to CMST through Ministry of Health (MoH) and National Local Government Finance Committee as quarterly advance funding which was used to float tenders for additional medicines for the second half of the year.
During the same week, the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Population also expressed concern over the shortages; hence, the expectation that Gondwe would directly address the problem as he did with the food situation.
But University of Malawi’s Chancellor College economics professor Ben Kaluwa suspected that government was hoping donors would help with the drug budget through dedicated grants or programme support to fill the gap.
Kaluwa, however, said the health sector was tricky in that government cannot always rely on donors to bail it out as drugs were a basic necessity.
In the 2015/16 budget, Parliament approved drug budget allocations for district hospitals at K10 billion and K5.6 billion for central hospitals. n