Uganda: Hospital boss explains theft of Gov’t drugs

By Moses Walubiri

Commissioner of Parliament, Peter Ogwang, demanded that the health workers who appear selling government issued medicines in the television documentary; “Stealing from the Sick” should be arrested and prosecuted.

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Dr Nathan Onyachi (centre), the director of Masaka Regional Referral Hospital answering questions during the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on Wednesday June 26, 2019. Right is the hospital’s accountant Basil Kamara. Photo by Timothy Murungi

KAMPALA – A recent Television documentary highlighting how easily government drugs are being stolen and sold on the open market somewhere across the border has caused a stir.

Last week, a backbench Commissioner of Parliament, Peter Ogwang, demanded that the health workers who appear selling government issued medicines in the television documentary; “Stealing from the Sick” should be arrested and prosecuted.

The Director Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, Dr. Nathan Onyachi on Wednesday waded into the debate by conceding that theft of Government drugs is a problem that has afflicted Uganda’s health sector for years.  

In a meeting with lawmakers sitting on the Public Accounts Committee over queries raised by the Auditor General for the financial year ending June, 2018, Onyachi parted curtains on points of leakage of Government drugs.

“Unfortunately, theft of Government drugs is something we have battled for long but the leakages continue to cause losses,” he said.

Onyachi who had the top brass of Masaka regional referral hospital in tow revealed that drugs are stolen at three points in the entire supply chain.

First, Onyachi, a former boss Gulu National Referral Hospital revealed, is at “point of delivery from purchase to store.”

“It’s possible to supply air here,” he noted.

Onyachi also revealed that rogue technocrats sustain leakages at store level and when drugs are being supplied to wards and ‘mini’ department stores.

MPs heard that inadequate staffing and poor security laxity which is underscored by absence of CCTV cameras or fencing health facilities has compounded the problem.

Onyachi told lawmakers that Ministry of Health has been alive to the leakage caused by different departments creating mini stores which made dispensing logs hard to fill.

“The ministry has centralized requisition of drugs. No more department stores,” Onyachi said.

The issue of stealing Government drugs has been in the public domain with Government health facilities gaining a bad reputation for not being equipped with essential medicine despite National Medical Stores making the requisite supplies.

In order to curb the vice, Government has tightened the supervision mechanism by requiring district security teams and leaders at different levels officiating at deliveries made by NMS.

However, last week’s documentary has stirred debate about the problem that has proved one of the biggest challenges to improving service delivery in the health sector.

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