THE availability of drugs in public hospitals is a sure sign that Government is delivering on its promises.
That is why in the 2018, budget, Finance Minister Felix Mutati has proposed the establishment of additional regional hubs in Mansa and Mpika and a sub-hub in Kabompo to ensure adequate and availability of drugs.
This year, Government will establish a hub in Ndola, all this in an effort to make essential medicines and medical supplies accessible to the people.
In his budget speech to Parliament on Friday, Mr Mutati said in order to ensure timely and adequate availability of essential medicines and medical supplies, Government was setting up hubs and prefabricated storage facilities to increase storage capacity.
Government embarked on the construction of 650 health posts in 2012, under late President Michael Sata, as a way of taking health services closer to the people.
We know that a number of rural people walk long distances to access health care and it is worse for women and children when they are faced with cases of a maternal nature.
The health posts, which are being constructed through a US$50 million loan obtained from the EXIM Bank of India are meant to reach more people who are scattered in remote parts of the country where bigger hospitals are absent.
Nearly 240 of the health posts are now operational and this, we are confident, has made it easy for the rural people to get medical care.
It is the construction of such health posts that makes the decentralisation of drugs and medicines supply a necessity to make Government efforts of delivering better health care to the people a reality.
The decentralisation of any process is always a sure sign of development as it brings essential services closer to the people.
Drugs and medicines are part of the essential services in the health sector and that is why Government spends large amounts of money to procure and make them available to the people.
A government exists to serve its people and the setting up of hubs means drugs will reach more people and in good time.
The accessing of drugs from a centralised system can be fraught with delays due to the red tape and this has the possibility of creating an artificial shortage.
But with such interventions, health institutions will have no excuse when their pharmacies run out of medicines to dispense to patients.
We wish that the availability of drugs in health facilities will contribute to retaining health personnel, especially in rural areas, which they shun due to a number of challenges.
However, with the intended decentralisation of the drugs supply, we want to urge Government to put in place stringent measures that will seal any loopholes of pilferage.
The pilferage of drugs is a thorny issue. A number of drugs belonging to government hospitals have been found on the open market and the culprits are often the staff who are closest to the disbursement point.
Any health personnel who is nearer a hub for drugs has the primary responsibility to ensure the drugs end up in the right hands and for the benefit of the majority of the people.
Government should continue in its efforts to deal harshly with those who seek to derail its efforts by stealing drugs meant for patients in hospitals.
While Government is decentralising the drug supply system to health facilities, it should also ensure there is adequate personnel to help it achieve its vision of taking healthcare close to the people.
A number of health facilities in the country are understaffed, making our health personnel overworked and fail to deliver quality health service, even when their pharmacies are well stocked.
Government should increase its pace of recruiting health personnel to reduce the shortfall of staff at all levels and improve the delivery of better health to all Zambians.