EditorialOpinion

Unacceptable drug shortage

We agree with President Hakainde Hichilema that the critical shortage of drugs in our public hospitals is unacceptable.

There is absolutely no justification considering that money has been voted for the purpose.

According to President Hichilema, the money has been sitting in bank accounts while those responsible for the procurement functions either play politics or try to manipulate the tendering process to their personal financial benefit.

It is cruel and indeed unacceptable that hospitals have been made to run without essential drugs that are readily available in the country all because the officials harbour political grudges against local suppliers and manufacturers preferring instead to buy from abroad.

 This is an abuse of power and authority that has led to loss of lives.

In a well-functioning administration, such conduct would merit serious censure, sackings and even criminal prosecution.

We however still hope that a serious investigation by a credible institution will be carried out and such acts should be subject to censure and criminal prosecution. 

It is ridiculous that even Intravenous drips solutions are being imported from India, when these can and are being made locally.

The shambolic system has been allowed to prevail for too long, leaving a distinct impression that Government was not in full control of the situation. 

Reassuring statements delivered in Parliament were in clear breach of standing orders. This can be proved by the fact that an emergency tender for insulin was floated last week. 

This tender was indicative of the crisis. It proves the complaint by MPs that insulin was not available in hospitals.

Insulin is an essential drug whose absence may have proved fatal. Nobody, however powerful should be allowed to play with human life, and those who do must bear the full consequences of their callous acts.

It is common knowledge that the entire drugs being out of stock is the result of a deliberate, malicious and ill intended fracture of the very delicately balanced supply chain system. 

It is delicate because it works subject to a number of caveats and informal agreements.

We feel for Doctors and other professionals who must serve in hospitals lacking in requisite medicine, diagnostic equipment and nonfunctioning machinery, all because the administrative system is mired in political contention.

Doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath which enjoins them to help the ill and not cause harm. Their frustration is therefore understandable as they serve in facilities devoid of the essential working tools, while being fully aware that Government has disbursed funds for the acquisition of drugs and equipment.

It is important that the cries of the ordinary people have reached the ears of the President who has spoken unequivocally of his concern about the situation which has caused so much anger and unfortunately political angst against the UPND. 

The Ministry of Health is in urgent need of fixing.

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