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Butabika Hospital officials grilled over drug shortages

FILE PHOTO: Public Accounts Committee

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Officials from the Butabika National Mental Referral Hospital have been tasked to explain the stock out of essential drugs at the facility which has forced patients to resort to expensive health care systems.

Led by the Executive Director Butabika Hospital, Dr David Basangwa, the officials on Thursday appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – Central Government to respond to audit queries raised in the financial year 2016/2017.

In his report, Auditor General John Muwanga focused on the utilization of medicines and medical supplied as a key area with his audit focusing on the procedures, process, tools and documentation used to manage medicines and medical supplies.

While his report noted nothing significant to highlight on the Hospital’s stores documentation, Muwanga faulted the health facility of stock-outs of medicines and medical supplies.

“Three items out of the five selected tracer Essential Medicines and Health Supplies experienced stock-outs ranging from 22 to 31 days. Stock-outs erode patients’ confidence in the health sector which leads them to resort to inappropriate and expensive systems of health care,” said Muwanga.

Bukoto East MP Florence Namayanja tasked the hospital officials to explain why they continue to experience stock outs and whether they have taken steps to solve the problem.

Dr Basangwa told PAC that stock-outs are caused by the constrained medicines budget and that they have on several occasions engaged Ministry of Finance. He said that previously, they were getting 1.2 billion shillings annually leaving a funding gap of 800 million Shillings but this has been enhanced to 2 billion consequently improving the hospital’s supply for medicines.

Tasked to produce evidence of the hospital’s engagement with Finance and the provided money, Basangwa tabled copies of letters exchanged between the hospital and the Finance Ministry.

He further said that the Hospital does not have the medicine budget line highlighted in its budget as this is given directly to the National Medical Stores (NMS).

This did not go well with PAC Vice Chairperson Okin Ojara and Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga who expressed worry of a repeat of stock-outs since the hospital does not control the budget.

Anjuman Woman MP Jessica Ababiku cited a need for the Hospital to advocate for a policy shift so that it gets its own budget and make medicine procurement according to its needs.

Tororo County MP Fredrick Angura also emphasized the need for a policy shift in the purchase of medicines so that it can also solve other issues health facilities experience with NMS in regard to supply of expired drugs and unrequired medicines.

But MP Mpuuga said that the advocacy for a policy shift should go the Parliament’s Health Committee which handles policy matters in the sector.

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