THE Zimbabwe Medical association (ZIMA) says information from pharmaceutical wholesalers indicates an impending serious shortage of essential drugs due to delayed remittance of international payments by the central bank.
According to the association, drugs affected include those for chronic diseases such as diabetes (insulin), cancer drugs (chemotherapy), psychiatric drugs (anti-psychotic) and theatre drugs (anaesthetics).
With a tanked economy, Zimbabwe has been struggling with shortages of the US dollar, the currency of preference for many, forcing the central bank to prioritise international payments.
The forex crunch has however not affected President Robert Mugabe who is currently holidaying abroad and also managed to pay a Lebanese dealer about $1.4m to get a diamond ring for his wife.
ZIMA secretary general, Dr Shingi Bopoto, told NewZimbabwe.com that the problem affecting the hospitals was not down to the health or finance ministries but the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) which is not remitting money to foreign suppliers.
“We are told that sometimes payments are talking up to three months to be processed,” he said.
“And some of these drugs are very critical and are ordered when the need arises. We are also informed that some of the major hospitals have been left with just two weeks’ supply of drugs.
He added: “These pharmaceutical wholesalers have money in their accounts and they have made Real Time Gross Settlements (RTGS) to their suppliers outside the country.
“It is these remittances that are not going out and, as a result, it is taking long for their orders to be processed. You would be aware that Zimbabwe does not manufacture a lot of drugs.”
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An appeal to the RBZ from one of the country’s major referral hospitals seen by this publication says over the past few months they have faced numerous challenges in restocking critical pharmaceuticals medicines.
“We are particularly concerned about the atracurium injection for which an outstanding order which they have failed to deliver,” reads part of the letter.
“Please may you urgently assist in facilitating payments for (name supplied) as these are vital medicines for the hospital it goes without saying that Parerinyatwa Group of Hospitals is a referral hospital for the nation and we cannot afford to any stock outs of critical medicines lest we lose lives.”
On the way forward, Bopoto said the RBZ needs to prioritise payments for drugs and all other health related payments.
“We are in the process of engaging the RBZ and those banks which have been identified by the pharmaceutical wholesalers to see if they can expedite the payment.
“RBZ needs to prioritise the payment for drugs and all health-related items. Some of these suppliers are now even demanding payment in cash due to the delay by RBZ.”