In a bid to curb pilferage, Ministry of Health (MoH) says it plans to introduce a tracking system for medical drugs and supplies from their point of entry into the country.
Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi made the announcement in his briefing to the Health Sector Annual Review Joint Meeting in Lilongwe on Wednesday where he said he will not tolerate theft of medical drugs and supplies in public hospitals.
The minister said: “With support from The Global Fund, we are introducing a drug entry and tracking system which will ensure tracking of drugs right from delivery at Central Medical Stores Trust [CMST] to the end-user.
“We will make sure that we are strengthening the system within the drug supply chain to prevent theft in hospitals.”
Besides tracking, the minister said all drugs and supplies meant for public hospitals will also be labelled for easy identification.
And in a recent Ministerial Statement presented in Parliament, the MoH said out of K17.2 billion budget for drugs approved by Parliament in the 2016/17 financial year—out of which K10.26 billion was for district hospitals and health centres and K7.2 billion for the country’s four central hospitals—K1.5 billion worth of drugs were lost to theft at various levels in the public health sector.
In 2016 alone, 125 people were arrested in connection with drug theft of which 64 cases are still in court while 30 have been convicted.
Reacting to the planned roll out of the tracking system, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe said in an interview the system was a welcome development because issues of theft in public hospitals were worrisome.
He said this is the kind of system the country needs to curb theft of medical drugs and supplies in the public health sector.
In his remarks at the review meeting, Parliamentary Committee on Health vice-chairperson Victor Musowa, who is Mulanje Bale legislator, commended MoH for the efforts to deal with theft and applauded the minister for supporting HIV and Aids (Prevention and Management) Bill passed in Parliament earlier this week.
Drug theft has been on the increase in recent years, especially in public health facilities, leaving patients failing to access essential drugs from hospital pharmacies. n