‘US$600 million required to revive health sector’

ABOUT US$600 million is needed urgently to acquire medical equipment, drugs, infrastructure refurbishment and other resources to revive the health sector, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

In a report this month on the state of the health sector, a task force of the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) said the money would also cover coordination of medical research and development in the country and manpower development.

The NECF taskforce on health comprises officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Medical Professional Associations, Medical Councils, University of Zimbabwe School of Medicine, Private Hospitals Associations, Private Medical Laboratories Associations, pharmaceutical manufacturing companies and medical aid societies.

The US$600 million is way above the US$157,8 million allocated to the Health ministry in the 2009 budget by the then acting Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa.

In the budget, US$60 million was allocated to government central, provincial and district hospitals and rural health centers while US$21,7 million was set aside for the procurement of drugs and other medical supplies for local authorities and mission hospitals and clinics.

NatPharm was allocated US$16,25 million for recapitalisation and the health ministry is expected to procure 61 ambulances and 80 service vehicles from the US$4 million it was allocated for equipment.

Over US$6,5 million was set aside for urgent rehabilitation of health infrastructure such as boilers, steam reticulation systems and laundry equipment at Harare, Mpilo, United Bulawayo hospitals and Chitungwiza central hospitals.

The taskforce said Chinamasa’s budgetary allocation was inadequate and made a number of recommendations to urgently resuscitate the health sector now run by the newly appointed MDC-T minister Henry Madzorera.

The taskforce said the government should mobilise adequate resources to assist local health products manufactures, wholesalers and distributors to rebuild capacity and that the allocation of the resources should be done through an independent body.

“For the public sector resources should be made available through the National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm). The annual requirements for the three stakeholders in the supply chain must be made available every three months before the end of the year without fail,” the report read.

“The allocation for resources must now be done through an Independent Health Supplies Committee established by government for this purpose, comprised of representatives from ministries of Health, Finance, Economic Development, Trade and Commerce, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, Natpharm and an NECF taskforce member.”

The taskforce also recommended the direct funding from both the public and private sector to local universities so as to attract quality resource personnel.

“The private sector must be encouraged to play an active role in human resource development for the health sector, particularly by providing sponsorship for specialist programme,” read the report.

“The provision of transport and housing is essential for all professional and supporting staff. An incentive package for health personnel that is slightly above the regional parity in order to attract those that migrated into the region and elsewhere should be put in place.”

According to the report, healthcare funders and pension funds must be engaged in resuscitating existing infrastructure at all public hospitals.

It said there was a need for at least two ambulances at each rural health centre and health workers should be provided adequate transport to perform their duties.

Most public hospital infrastructure is dilapidated and some of the equipment, such as boilers, mortuary refrigeration systems and air conditioners, are beyond repair.

The report suggested that the Research Council of Zimbabwe be given the mandate to ensure that all local research, including animal health science, is properly coordinated across all sectors.

“There should be a dedicated 1% of GDP allocated to research and development from central government whilst the private sector should also give a fixed percentage of its profit to research and development,” the taskforce said.

“All humanitarian aid from non-governmental organisatons must now be turned to development aid so that emphasis is on reconstruction and development rather than treating a symptom.”

BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA