Countrymen and Women,
Allow me to express my utter disgust at the Patriotic Front’s failure to provide the much needed health care financing packages or operational grants for all Provincial Health Offices, District Health Offices, 1st and 2nd Level Hospitals, Health Centres and Posts since last year in October. I wish to bring to the attention of the nation that as of last year October, most of these Ministry of Health operatives had only received grants between 8 to 10 months, as opposed to the full 12 months as approved in the 2018 National Budget.
The question is, where did the rest of the allocated grant funds go?
As the year 2019 began, there were a lot of analysis on many forums on the budget estimates and pronouncements that were debated and, eventually approved by parliament having apportioned a total of ZMK 8.1 Billion from the ZMK 86.8 Billion National Budget. This translated to only 9.3% towards the country’s health service delivery systems.
The question is, from last year October to February 2019 (now we are in March 2019), what does the PF government expect the frontline health managers (Provincial and District Health Offices) in provinces and districts to use for effective service delivery?
Having said this, I wish to reiterate the fact that there has been a growing trend to place a lot of blame on individual hospitals, and staff already working under extremely difficult conditions for the failure to provide quality services and drugs. It is very unfair for health workers and managers to be blamed for failure to refer a patient with complicated illnesses to the next level of health care because of having no fuel which can only be bought when the operational grant is received. Under this regime, we have seen an unprecedented level of stupidity and moral disintegration towards our labouring health care workers. They all live in fear because, for example, a District Commissioner has the guts to shout at a fully qualified Medical Doctor and or, District Health Director in fully view of the public for anything to show the people the PF is in power.
How unfair can this country’s citizens be, who voted for the PF government, which has since last year October failed to send operational grants which should have been used to buy special drugs or vaccines that do not come through the Medical Stores drug kits (usually full of pain killers and antibiotics)?
Without doubt, the health service delivery financing has deteriorated under this government, and it has totally no shame or worry because it has a lot of people who do not understand how key this sector is to any economy. I wish to stress that the infrastructure song being put up by the Minister of Health every time he is on a podium is nothing but mere rhetoric because as these are mere buildings without new or modern equipment and facilities. I challenge anyone doubting to check these new hospitals, you will be shocked that not even beds were purchased but rather they just got all old equipment and tools from the former hospital structures. Check Mpika, Serenje, Mkushi, Kapiri Mposhi, Vubwi, and Petauke Hospitals among others for you to believe this statement on equipment. The professional staff work under extremely difficult conditions and are viewed as public enemies as we are a rotten society that does not seem interested in interrogating the root cause of these problems, in this case the PF government. Consequently, we have seen a mass exodus of essential health workers in this country under this government than before because of the frustrations they undergo.
Where are the new and modern pieces of medical equipment the key Ministry of Health, led by Chitalu Chilufya preach about?
The Ministry of Health’s lack of foresight and good governance practices has grave consequences in this country as can be seen from the ever escalating number of maternal deaths. Many are times I sit and laugh at many pronouncements made by the key officials who even find it prudent to highlight how they want to met punishments on all health workers who experience a maternal death at their hands while on duty. Will this be a fair process to punish a Medical Doctor or Midwife for a maternal death resulting from excessive bleeding of the pregnant woman at a hospital where there is completely no blood? In case the public does not know, the blood transfusion body is almost non-existent as it has failed to meet the blood demand in this country. This is because all blood collection centres cannot conduct blood donation campaigns due to lack of funds since last year October.
To the general public, I wish to alert you that these government hospitals are serious ‘death traps’ especially for our pregnant mothers as care is scarce, so are the key required tools. In cases of referrals, at the stage of complications that 1st level hospitals cannot handle especially in pregnancy, you seriously risk your wife, sister or mother dying as the ambulances in almost all districts cannot move due to lack of fuel and exhaustion of the debt ceiling to all filling stations by District Health Offices. To this effect, we have enough evidence from across the country of letter written to Provincial Health Directors and District Commissioners by District Health Directors alerting them of this operational incapacitation by their offices.
What do you expect these young men and women in district offices and hospitals to tell the electorates when they cannot offer full services due to lack of funds? Should they surely bear a bad name because of the PF’s inept policies or lack of priorities?
Finally, I urge all well-meaning Zambians to take this government to task to account for this gap in financing for the health service delivery points countrywide. It is evident that top government officials have unlimited access to well managed health systems abroad as recently seen by Minister Brian Mushimba, posting on social media at some hospital in South Africa. This is only for the preserve of the few, and we should not continue on this path of self-destruction as a country. The only programs and movements seen under the ministry are those financed by UN agencies, DfID or USAID organizations who also cannot venture into financing actual service delivery. We are only at the mercy of these organizations in the health sector as a country, if not even ARVs would have been difficult to access. Thanks to the US government especially for the ARVs because MoH only purchase expired drugs (only God and the Minister knows what goes on). Having said that, it is important to refocus on the health service delivery path as a country or else we will continue losing many people through preventable conditions.
As for the Minister of Health, he has proven the adage that ‘education alone without wisdom is a mere state of the mind’, as he has done nothing apart from witch hunt in the ministry based on tribe or personal preference as seen through the recent appointment of his permanent girlfriend as Permanent Secretary – Administration. He has only been busy blotting Ndeke House with unnecessary Directorates that has seen over 200 Medical Doctor sitting in offices as ‘managers and administrators’ instead of working on patients. He only has good speeches and pronouncements for this country with little or no action to improve service delivery which is the ministry’s core mandate. I urge all well-meaning Zambians to engage in discourse that will bring sanity to the health sector.