It is absolutely criminal that our public health institutions have run out of such vital supplies as ARVs and BCG for HIV patients and children respectively. This shortage is obviously the result of bad planning and perhaps lack of funds, as there is no global shortage of the drugs reported.
It is equally unconscionable that the health delivery system is slowly but most certainly deteriorating to a situation where women are made to carry their own supplies when they go to deliver.
We entirely agree with Non-Governmental Organization Coordinating Council (NGOCC) Chairperson Beatrice Grillo who has demanded an explanation for the very pathetic situation existing in the medical delivery system.
It is unacceptable that after 50 years of self governance pregnant women should be carrying buckets and gloves to be used during delivery, while most patients sleep on hospital floors due to lack of bed space. Something obviously has gone wrong and must be rectified.
The most heart wrenching is the shortage of ARV’s so clearly elaborated by the plea by Ms Clementine Mumba, Chairperson for the international committee for women living with HIV in Zambia, who has disclosed that the university teaching hospital in Lusaka is rationing Truvada and other HIV drugs to only 2 weeks per patient because the hospital was running short of supplies.
If this is the case in Lusaka the situation in rural areas is even more pathetic demanding for immediate attention. Reports from Eastern Province suggest that doctors are being forced to substitute drugs because the preferred ones are not available. This is untenable and a threat to the lives of so many patients who are likely to develop side effects caused by the lack of appropriate medication. Others will also develop resistance to the drugs when they do finally become available.
This situation need not have arisen because the authorities are fully aware of the stocking dynamics and as rightly pointed out by former minister of health, Dr. Brian Chituwo there was a sufficiently robust regime established by his ministry to ensure that supplies were always available.
This was done with full support of cooperating partners to have provided adequate resources to ensure that Zambia’s drug needs were met.
A shortage therefore is clearly a failure on the part of the appropriate ministry to administer the funds.
Unlike the supply of essential drugs procured by the government directly which are dependant on government subventions the case of ARV’s is very different and that is why we feel that it is criminal negligence that there should be an unexplained shortage which is clouded by equally unclear statements from the Ministry’s responsible for health.
If indeed the separation of the ministry of health is responsible for this situation it is time then that the matter is reconsidered to ensure integration and effective delivery of services.
It is pointless maintaining an ineffective system especially where human lives are concerned.
The sooner this matter is dealt with the better before many lives are lost and many others plunged into unnecessary suffering.