The alleged rot at Binga district hospital is a concern in a province with high rates of chronic conditions.
Melody Muzamba remains indebted to her son in Bulawayo, who came to her rescue with medication after the pharmacy at the local hospital in Binga had run out of stock. Although her ailment, related to her reproductive system is common among women, her peers could not spare her their medication.“My son in Bulawayo had to intervene. He was shocked that a district hospital did not have such a drug,” says Muzamba.
At the root of the district’s biggest health institution troubles are widespread accusations of theft of medication and other key supplies. A recent visit by the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care at Binga District Hospital exposed suspicious underhand activities by the pharmacy and the rehabilitation team at the hospital, which resulted in the institution of investigations. One of the allegations is selling drugs and bandages to clients, which are supposed to be free.
During the visit, the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro, indicated his displeasure on negative attitudes and lack of preparedness by the hospital staff at Binga, prompting him to extend his visit by a day.
A disgruntled villager, Mary Munkuli, narrates how the service delivery is fast deteriorating at the hospital. “The service is so bad that you can wait for a long time in a queue without assistance for treatment. The drugs are not always available. They just prescribe, and you buy them yourself,” says Munkuli.
Internal sources told The Citizen Bulletin that Dr Mangwiro had ordered an investigation into the sale of drugs by the hospital. The police were “tasked” to immediately institute investigations and unearth any matters of interest. At the same time, the hospital was instructed to audit the pharmacy, particularly the management of anti-rabies and anti-tetanus toxoid vaccines, which are reportedly being sold to Bulawayo pharmacies for US$30. The Citizen Bulletin could not get a comment from ZRP Matabeleland North Provincial Spokesperson Inspector Glory Banda who was not available at the time of writing.
However, some sources within the police say they have received the report, and it is still under investigation. The Provincial Medical Doctor has since commenced his audit at the pharmacy.
This publication has established that the police interviewed Munyaradzi Hakulandaba, a Pharmacy Technician at Binga district hospital.
It was discovered that there were no anti-rabies vaccines in stock. There were also only 12 snake anti-venom in stock, acquired on 3 November 2020. Though there are no specific anti-venom stock numbers to be kept by a hospital, pharmacy experts say a rural set-up like Binga, where snake bites are prevalent, the stock must be at least 100. The anti-venom costs US$2 or equivalent in local currency at government hospitals.
Plaster of Paris [POP] used to immobilize broken bones while they heal was alleged to have been sold by the Rehabilitation team. Under normal circumstances, plasters must be in stock for all sizes, 50, 75,100, 150mm and should always be available. Binga has a fishing industry that leaves many people crippled as they are sometimes attacked by crocodiles, and elephants and need more plasters.
The shortage and depletion of stocks without replenishment has been cited by residents as a lack of concern by the designated staff.
A further police interview was done with Julias Magaya, the Sister in Charge Community. It was discovered that the hospital still had in stock an anti-tetanus toxoid vaccine, which was phased out. It was also discovered that the hospital is administering a Diphtheria tetanus [DT] vaccine to patients with suspected tetanus cuts, the vaccine is meant for children under five years as prescribed by the immunization policy of Zimbabwe. As of 31 July 2021, about 480 absorbed TD vaccines were found in stock.
The parties involved could not comment, citing that the investigations are still underway as the rehabilitation team is yet to be interviewed. However, residents who have endured poor customer care and shortage of essential drugs at the hospital cite such rot as the cause of their perennial challenges.
“Such mal-practices by health professionals could be worsening the shortage of medication and affecting our right to access to quality health,” says Charles Mutale.
Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) 2021 Rural Livelihoods Assessment Report notes that 7.4% of the households had members who had chronic illnesses nationally. Matabeleland North (9%) had the highest proportion. The proportion of household members who had HIV and AIDS infection was 31.2%. The highest proportion was in Matabeleland North (42.4%).
The report cites that the main reasons for missing medication were that the drug was too expensive (64.4%), not having the required currency to purchase (7.4%), and lack of transport to go and collect the drugs (6.3%). Binga Rural District Council CEO Joshua Muzamba had not answered the questions sent to him in writing by the time of publishing.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin