Health levy tops US$18 mil­lion

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - NEWS - De­bra Matabvu

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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