Two weeks after government admitted shortage of drugs in public health facilities; police in Lilongwe have arrested four suspects for allegedly stealing drugs worth millions of kwacha.
Both Central Region Police spokesperson Norriettie Chihana-Chimala and her Ministry of Health counterpart Joshua Malango confirmed the arrests in separate interviews yesterday.
Malango said the arrests followed operations by the ministry’s Drug Theft Investigations Unit in collaboration with a special police team aimed at tracking people who steal drugs in public hospitals.
He said that those arrested are medical suppliers suspected to have connived with health workers who have pilfered drugs and medical supplies worth millions of kwacha.
Malango said: “As a ministry, we went to Nkhotakota to audit drugs. There is one place where we got drugs with a government label. The seller told us he bought drugs from someone in Blantyre. The arrest means that they connived with some health workers who pilfer drugs from various hospitals.”
The assorted drug items uncovered include catheters, gloves, aprons, malaria and HIV test kits and various drugs.
According to Malango, the suspects, whose details have not been made available yet, revealed that they have been buying drugs from a man in Blantyre [name withheld] where officials from the ministry also went for a search.
Malango said upon a thorough search in the suspect’s house, officials found assorted medical supplies with government labels stacked in 90 kilogramme bags.
On her part, Chihana confirmed the arrests, saying police will provide full details today.
Recently, some health workers at Dowa were arrested for pilfering drugs from the hospital after a guard searched a bag belonging to one official while knocking off.
In an earlier interview with The Nation, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe argued that drug theft incidents are high in the country because they are done at different levels in the ward, pharmacy and during procurement.