George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
MASVINGO Provincial Hospital medical superintendent Dr Julius Chirengwa and the entire management committee have been suspended pending investigations into a scandal that has resulted in critical drugs being diverted to private pharmacies for resale in foreign currency.
Most of the drugs were donated to the hospital, while others were sourced from the National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm).
Also noted at the institution was the abuse of the procurement process for personal gain, among other corruption-related allegations.
This comes amid an acute shortage of medicines and critical equipment at State institutions, which pushes desperate patients to private pharmacies.
Dr Chirengwa was suspended together with a general surgeon, Dr Noel Zulu.Other suspended members of the hospital management committee include Ms Helga Mpande, a former matron at Masvingo Hospital, acting Tutor-in-Charge at the School of Nursing Ms Rosemary Machuwaire, hospital pharmacist Mr Zivanai Zibhenge and pharmacy technicians Messrs William Mamombe and Munyaradzi Thomu.
A general hand in the pharmacy department, Mr Shepherd Hwaire, and another attached to the Equipment Stores and Workshop Department were not spared.
Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Agnes Mahomva confirmed the suspensions, but could not shed more light.
“Yes, I can confirm that some officers in Masvingo have been suspended pending investigations,” said Dr Mahomva. Dr Chirengwa also
confirmed his suspension.
“Yes we are on suspension and the reasons for the suspension are still being unearthed right now that is all I cannot say much.
“The Provincial Medical Director Dr Amadeus Shamu is better placed to comment on the allegations,’’ said Dr Chirengwa.
Sources said two officers (names withheld) allegedly diverted critical drugs like nifedipine from the hospital to their private pharmacies in the Masvingo Central Business District and Mucheke suburb.
The pharmacies, according to sources are always well-stocked and staff at the hospital usually refer patients there for purchase of drugs in short supply.
The duo was now running a cartel which determines prices of critical drugs at most pharmacies that they supply with medicines.
It is reported that the two would deliberately hike or reduce prices of key drugs in the town.
Among the drugs diverted from the hospital by the pair, were anti-retroviral drugs(ARVs) and those for treating chronic diseases like diabetes.
The drugs in question, would have either been supplied to the hospital by Government through Natpharm or donated for free by non-governmental organisations.
Fictitious dispense lists would be created as if the drugs were being dispatched to other Government health institutions in the province, when in actual fact, they will be taken to private pharmacies.
It is also alleged that some doctors were using hospital facilities to attend to their private patients.
A private ward that was donated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Masvingo business community was now a preserve for the medical practitioners’ private patients.
Sources said the price of a hospital ambulance purchased recently was also inflated from US$45 000 to US$72 000.
The difference allegedly went into individuals’ pockets.
Surgical equipment for male circumcision donated by organisations such as Population Services International reportedly found its way out of the hospital to private pharmacies.