Minister of Health Addresses Urgent Issue of Medicine Theft in Public Health Facilities

The Minister of Health, Hon. Silvia T. Masebo, MP, delivered a crucial speech at the Legacy Hotel in Chongwe today, officially opening the Consultative Meeting on Theft of Medicines and Medical Supplies from Public Health Facilities. The meeting aims to address the pressing issue of medicine theft in public health institutions and explore strategies to mitigate this alarming problem.

In her speech, Hon. Silvia T. Masebo outlined the primary objectives of the gathering, which included assessing the extent of medicine theft in public health facilities, devising interventions to combat theft, and determining effective monitoring and evaluation strategies.

The Zambian government, under the leadership of His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia, is committed to providing equitable access to quality and affordable medicines and medical supplies for all citizens. To support this commitment, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has continuously invested in the public sector pharmaceutical supply chain, with recent budget allocations increasing from ZMW 1.2 billion to ZMW 4.6 billion in 2023. This substantial financing has already shown improvements in the availability of medicines and medical supplies in health facilities across the country.

Despite these efforts, the availability and access to essential medicines and medical supplies are still affected by supply chain challenges, including theft and pilferage. The Minister stressed that thefts of medicines in public health facilities are not only illegal but also unethical, as they directly impact the lives of vulnerable members of society. These actions erode the trust bestowed upon the government to provide quality and cost-effective healthcare services to all citizens.

The theft of medicines and medical supplies hinders the treatment of patients in need, leading to complications, disability, or even death. It also frustrates the hard work of dedicated healthcare workers who strive to provide quality services.

To combat this issue, Hon. Silvia T. Masebo proposed several decisive actions:

  1. Strengthen collaboration with law enforcement agencies: The MoH will work closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate suspected cases related to theft of medicines and medical supplies. An SI (Statutory Instrument) is also proposed to expedite the prosecution of offenders.
  2. Staff Training and Awareness: The MoH will provide comprehensive code of ethics training to all healthcare workers, promoting accountability and transparency in managing the supply chain.
  3. Improved Inventory Management: The Ministry, in collaboration with partners, will provide inventory management tools to track and trace medicines and medical supplies, ensuring accountability among healthcare workers.
  4. Security Measures: Provincial Health Directors have been directed to procure and install CCTVs in high volume facilities to enhance security against theft.
  5. Community Engagement: The MoH and partners will engage communities through education and outreach programs to raise awareness about preserving healthcare resources, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility.

The Minister highlighted that the Joint National Taskforce against thefts of medicines and medical supplies has already made significant progress, leading to arrests and convictions, including health workers involved in such criminal activities.

In conclusion, Hon. Silvia T. Masebo expressed her hope that the consultative meeting would propose effective strategies to mitigate medicine theft and protect the integrity of the public health system. The meeting brings together key stakeholders, and its outcomes are expected to play a pivotal role in safeguarding essential medicines and medical supplies for the well-being of all Zambians.

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