Government has admitted that the 2016/17 financial year was marred by drug shortages in public hospitals, a move officials say affected the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) initiative.
Minister for Health and Population Atupele Muluzi told delegates at the Annual Sector Review Conference on Wednesday in Lilongwe that public hospitals continue to face low levels of drugs.
He said: “The health sector still faces many challenges to achieving the goal of Universal Health Coverage. One of the challenge we had is the low stock levels of drugs and commodities for effective health service delivery.
“This was coupled with staff shortages across our health facilities, inadequate village clinics and under-five shelters, leading to some outreach programmes being conducted in the open.”
The minister said the budget execution rate for his ministry during the period under review was 87 percent and it varied by the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP) which was launched last year.
During the 2016/2017 financial year, the ministry spent about K1.1 billion from The Global Fund for procurement of general medicines and medical supplies while K6.5 billion was meant for procuring HIV and Aids drugs.
The African Development Bank also gave government some money, with the ministry spending about K3.1 billion out of the budgeted K3.6 billion, incurring a deficit of about K500 million for drug procurement.
In an interview, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dan Namarika said about 70 percent of drugs are available in public hospitals.
He said there has been a deficit of 30 percent due to a number of reasons ranging from population increase, procurement processes and shortage of funding in some situations.
He said: “You can have a pharmacy, you can have all kinds of drugs but the question is: Are those must-have drugs? When we are talking about 70 percent drug availability, we are talking about the whole list of must-have drugs which are life-saving.”
Namarika said government has been trying to ensure that essential drug list such as malaria drugs, vaccines and others are always available in hospitals.
The goal of UHC is to provide quality, equitable and affordable healthcare within the aim of improving the health status, financial risk, protection and satisfaction.
In his remarks, Health Donor Group chairperson Jurgen Borsch, who is the German Ambassador, noted that the money which they have been pumping into the country is achieving good results.
He, however, said Malawi should consider implementing the decentralisation policy if it is to efficiently achieve the objective of universal health coverage. n