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Kwataine says Malawians should start paying for health services

Martha KwataineMZUZU--Executive Director for the Malawi Health Equity network (MHEN) Martha Kwataine has suggested that it would be proper if Malawians started paying for the provision of health service in the country in order to improve on its delivery.

Kwataine said this on Thursday in Lilongwe during a public debate which was aimed at exploring and discussing several challenges that the health delivery system is currently facing in the country owing to the changes in the political, socio and economic landscape in the past twelve months.

“In the pursuit of our mission and among other interventions, we engage policy and decision makers in dialogue. This dialogue is constantly made public so that the citizenry can effectively participate in issues that affect their lives,” said Kwataine.

During the public debate several observations were made as being the main challenges hindering effective health service delivery in the country and they included poor management of the Locum programme, inadequate budget allocation to the health sector, drug pilferage and neighbouring countries taking advantage of our free health services in the country.

“Apparently, despite of all the various interventions in place, it is clear that our health delivery system is still challenged. Government through the Ministry of Health is making efforts but then it is never enough as their resource base looks strained so many times therefore the need for Malawians to start paying for these services,” said Kwataine during the debate.

Official reports indicate that the instability of drug supply at country health facilities is resultant of influx of patients from neighbouring accessing free drugs at the health centres, who run away from paying for medicine at the public  health facilities in their countries .

“During a recent visit to Nsanje District Hospital,for example, it was indicated that 40 percent of patients that access health care in the district are Mozambicans. While the ministry of Health is accepting this observation, they are blaming the memorandum of understanding which is in favour of the neighbouring countries,” said Kwataine.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health Henry Chimbali who was also part of the debate said as a Ministry they plan and do the allocations but they do not provide the funding themselves so it is difficult for them.

“We have tried to hit the 13 percent mark out of the intended 15percent on the budget allocations but still it is never enough. Further to that, the disease outbreaks we experience within the year and the clearing of our debts contributes to the worsening of the deficit in the funding of the health sector,” said Chimbali.

Since the debate also questioned the functionality of Central Medical Stores Trust (CMSTU) which was given a new mandate and independent powers in 2011 to procure and supply drugs for almost all health facilities in the country, the trust had to respond as to why it was still failing to have the required number of drugs in its stocks.

Public relations officer for the CMSTU Hebert Chandilanga while admitting capacity challenges, assured Malawians that the process of procuring drugs was already underway and that some consignments had already arrived in the country and were being distributed to various health facilities in the country.

“Malawians should bear with us that it is not an easy task but we can assure them that we are doing our utmost and we will continue to do so. They are some laws which need to change to suit our current status as a trust for us to perform as per requirement. We also need to make sure that the staff we have has the necessary skills to perform their duties as custodians of drugs,” said Chandilanga.

Also present during the debate were Executive Director for Malawi Network of People Living with HIV (MANET PLUS) Safali Mbewe and President for the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives (NONM) Abraham Gama.

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