Show political will to end drug stockouts

Friday August 9 2019

Refurbished. The current state of Abim District

Refurbished. The current state of Abim District hospital. Despite being renovated, the facility lacks essential medicines such as anti-malarials. PHOTO BY STEVEN ARIONG 

By Editor

This newspaper on Wednesday carried a story that Abim District Hospital was grappling with an acute drug stockout. Fortunately, a day after the paper broke the story, the National Medical Stores (NMS) reportedly delivered medicines to the facility. However, until NMS delivered the drugs, many patients who had been diagnosed with malaria and tuberculosis were referred to private clinics to buy prescribed drugs. Other patients said they had spent a week receiving only painkillers.
Dr Edison Atwine, the hospital medical superintendent, blamed the shortage of malaria drugs, including sedatives used to treat accident victims, on the failure by NMS to supply drugs to the hospital since June.
However, Mr James Odongo, the NMS public relations officer, dismissed Dr Atwine’s explanation saying the hospital had received drugs from the agency last week (though the delivery happened on Wednesday afternoon).
“We had had scheduled to deliver drugs to Abim but it is not because of the story that appeared in the media,” Mr Odongo, said.
Be that as it may, there seems to be a big challenge characterised by either incompetence or negligence of duty by public officials who are paid to ensure efficient supply of drugs to public health facilities. This must be investigated, the culprits punished and the practice brought to an end.
Moreover, while there are delays in delivering medicines and other supplies to public health facilities in the country, some drugs are reportedly smuggled out of the country. This was revealed by none other than the board chairperson of the National Drug Authority, Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, about two months ago.
Dr Bitekyerezo revealed that 30 per cent of government drugs are smuggled to neighbouring countries such as DR Congo and South Sudan, a crime that puts at great risk the lives of Ugandan taxpayers, who sustain the health sector.
It is high time the government showed determination, clothed in political will, to bring to an end the perennial song of drug stockout at public hospitals across the country. The time is now for health ministry officials to be seen to be working.