Drug shortage hits Matabeleland rural hospitals

Matabeleland villagers have bemoaned the unavailability of drugs in clinics and referral hospitals.

Government doctors have been on industrial action since September last year demanding salary and on-call allowance increases pegged on interbank rates.

Their employer responded by firing hundreds of them and later issued a 48-hour moratorium in December for the fired doctors to return to work.

In an interview with CITE, Zakhele Ndlovu from Kwite village in Plumtree said he has been struggling to get access to medication.  

“It’s been almost two months since I last took my high blood pressure medication and when I get to the clinic, I was told there are no drugs so I have to buy them,” said Ndlovu.

“I cannot afford them because I am unemployed and I have been relying on these pills for the past 20 years.”

Another villager from Lupane, Siphesihle Donga said when she went to the clinic after a snake bite she did not get any assistance due to lack of drugs.

“I got bitten by a snake on the 22nd of December and when I went to Gomoza Hospital to get assistance there was no medication, even painkillers to manage the pain,” said Donga.

“They told me there was no medication so I just went home and used traditional medicine because I thought I was going to die from the pain”.

However, Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director Dr Pugin Chimberengwa said health centres in the province were stocked.

“Our hospitals are stocked with medicines through the Zimbabwe Assisted Pull System (ZAPS) where the facility orders medicines according to their stocks and needs. The last order was done in December,” said Dr Chimberengwa.

He added that the province has been facing minor challenges as some drugs could not be found.

 “Here and there are challenges with the availability of specific medicines in the medicine supply chain. This is determined by the availability of stocks at Government Medical Stores (Natpharm),” he told CITE.

He also alluded that basic medicines for pain and antibiotics are adequately available in rural hospitals and clinics.

“The basic medicines for pain and antibiotics are available in adequate stocks at our rural health facilities. The Ministry will continue to advocate for the supply of these to cover our most vulnerable communities,” said the PMD.

Dr Chimberengwa added that most doctors in the province had not joined the strike and were attending to patients.

“In Matabeleland North, the doctors though incapacitated did not join the strike. They are continuing to give their valued services to the community. However, complicated cases would need to be referred to central hospitals which were affected by the job action; thus, this tends to affect the patient outcomes for a small number of cases needing specialist services that we do not offer at our level.”

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