By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
05 June, 2014
Management at three major Bulawayo hospitals have been shamed after a team of visiting legislators discovered millions of dollars worth of expired drugs in storage areas, along with unused equipment and supplies that are vital to medical treatment.
A group of MPs on the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care visited Ingutsheni Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals and Mpilo Central Hospital on a fact-finding mission and were reportedly “shocked” by the level of mismanagement of drugs, including life-saving Anti-Retrovirals (ARVs).
The Parliamentary Committee, chaired by Dr Ruth Labode, found large quantities of expired drugs, syringes and catheters being kept in storerooms at the hospitals, while patients are deprived of the donated supplies by staff who claim that there are shortages.
According to the government’s own Chronicle newspaper, the committee was even more shocked at UBH, where they found a pile of drugs that had allegedly been burned in an apparent effort to conceal evidence ahead of the visit. But the fire had not destroyed all the drugs, which included HIV medication in short supply.
“Our government at the present moment can’t buy drugs because of budget constraints and the few we receive from donors are being allowed to expire in these hospitals,” Dr. Labode is quoted as saying.
SW Radio Africa’s Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme, went to Mpilo Hospital and described what he saw as “deplorable”. He witnessed patients sleeping on beds with old, worn out blankets that did not fit the bed.
“Just imagine people have to bring in their own blankets because in this weather they need to be warm. When I visited one patient suffering from a kidney ailment, there wasn’t even any painkiller available,” Saungweme explained.
He added that the lack of proper management and care for the patients also lends credibility to reports that some of the medical drugs, donated by the European Union, are being sold on the black market.
The Chronicle quoted a nurse at UBH, speaking anonymously, who said: “But if truth be told, many drugs are being stolen and sold to private surgeries in town. So this is just a cover-up on the part of hospital bosses.”
The revelations come only a week after the CEO at Mpilo Hospital made headlines when it was revealed that he was spending $5,000 per month on a hired Mercedes Benz. It has now come to light that other senior chefs at Bulawayo hospitals are also driving top of the range vehicles, while their institutions lack basic resources.
The Chronicle said Dr Leonard Mabhande at Ingutsheni, Dr Lawrence Mantiziba at Mpilo and UBH’s Nonhlanhla Ndlovu, are all driving the expensive cars. Ndlovu and her directors are also reportedly getting cell phone allowances that total between $100 and $600 per month.
This fresh scandal is reminiscent of the recent “salary-gate” corruption cases, which exposed how senior managers at non-performing parastatals were earning exorbitant wages while ordinary workers went unpaid for months. To date, no-one has been prosecuted and more cases continue to be reported.