More than US$18 million has been raised through the National Health Levy, with much of the money earmarked for surgical drugs, blood and vaccine procurement.
The levy – which takes US$0,05 of every US$1 of mobile phone airtime and data purchased – will in future also fund treatment of non-communicable diseases, principally cancer.
Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Gerald Gwinji told The Sunday Mail that the first drugs consignment was expected this week.
“Collection of the levy started in February 2017 when the enabling Statutory Instrument was gazetted, and the cumulative levy was US$18 million as of September 31.
“We are now procuring drugs. NatPharm has floated tenders and orders of US$10 million via normal/traditional procurement methods. Tenders closed in late September, with adjudication now underway. We expect inflows to start at the end of this month.”
Added Dr Gwinji: “We are prioritising areas of regular shortage such as anaesthesia and other theatre medicines, and blood supply. There are also components of vaccines we need to procure ourselves or co-fund.
“As I have said, we are doing this the normal way. When we tendered, people had to secure foreign currency. Therefore, we have alerted Treasury to accord special consideration to our suppliers as they have to purchase the drugs from outside the country.”
Dr Gwinji said authorities were actively consolidating Zimbabwe’s robust health system, and will recruit 102 Cuban specialist doctors to address particular skills shortages.
“(The doctors) should arrive in early 2018 and will be immediately deployed countrywide. The strategy is to place them at central hospitals and where we have started building specialist firms they will work in the same manner as local staff and get paid at the same level.
“The aim is to boost the domestic team. Areas requiring attention are neuro-surgery, orthopedic surgery and radiology, among others. So, we are going to prioritise such areas.”
Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association secretary-general Mr Enock Dongo described the interventions as “life-saving”.
“It is a welcome move, which is set to benefit patients. However, Government should set up a board that also has nurses and doctors whose views will be incorporated in drug and equipment procurement,” said Mr Dongo.
In the 2013 and 2014 national budgets, health got US$407 million and US$337 million, respectively, with the allocation falling to US$301 million in 2015.
The Health Ministry received US$330 million from Treasury in 2016, marking it four successive years in which Zimbabwe failed to meet the Abuja Declaration target of allocating at least 15 percent of the national budget to health.
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