Hospitals hit by cancer drug shortage

via Hospitals hit by cancer drug shortage – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 19, 2015

MOST provincial and district hospitals throughout the country are reportedly facing an acute shortage of drugs for cancer, psychiatric and epileptic patients although mission hospitals were adequately stocked, Health minister David Parirenyatwa has revealed.

By Phyllis Mbanje

Parirenyatwa told NewsDay yesterday that most district and provincial hospitals were currently operating at below 60% due to shortage of drugs.

“Cancer and psychiatric drugs are among some of the medication which is in acute shortage at most district and provincial hospitals,” Parirenyatwa said.

“Mission hospitals are mostly donor-funded while these particular ones (district and provincial hospitals) are financed through government coffers.”

Failure to access drugs by cancer or epilepsy patients can have very drastic effects on their health.

Cancer Association of Zimbabwe monitoring and evaluation officer Lovemore Makurirofa said they were worried about the shortages, adding any disruptions in taking cancer medication might result in treatment failure.

“Cancer treatment involves killing off the harmful cells and so if treatment is stopped before the prescribed cycles, cancer might recur,” he said.

Citizens Health Watch trustee Fungisai Dube said failure by cancer and psychiatric patients to access the prescribed drugs would result in resistance just as what happened to HIV and Aids patients on anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

“The effects are the same as those on people taking ARVs for HIV and Aids. They will develop resistance and this will reverse the gains of earlier treatment,” Dube said.

Recently it was reported that there was massive shortage of epilepsy drugs at hospitals and the health of thousands of patients was being compromised.

Speaking at a function hosted by the Epilepsy Support Foundation, the deputy director for the mental health department in the Ministry of Health, Dorcas Sithole, said the challenges were too huge for them to handle on their own.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike attributed the drug shortages to inadequate health financing.

He said government failed to allocate at least 15% from the total National Budget to the health sector as stipulated in the Abuja Declaration.

In a position paper on the 2014 health budget, Rusike said limited resource allocation to the health sector continued to affect health delivery systems at district and provincial hospitals.

“More funding should be channelled towards the public health system, specifically at the district and community levels where there are large numbers of people accessing health services. This will also address the issue of referrals and alleviate the numbers that are now seeking care at the central hospitals,” read the paper.

A recent report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care chaired by Ruth Labode revealed that a lot of drugs expired at rural health centres which were overstocked, while urban hospitals suffered severe shortages.

The committee urged the ministry to devise a workable redistribution system to address the problem.