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Theft of drugs irks health minister



‘Makhotso Rakotsoane

MASERU – HEALTH Minister ’Molotsi Monyamane says he is gravely concerned by the rampant drug theft at government hospitals and clinics.

Monyamane told thepost yesterday that many times officials at government-owned health centres have been caught red-handed in possession of drugs whose source they cannot explain.  “It has come to our attention as the ministry that this is rampant and many peddlers in the streets who sell drugs in bulk do not have slips that show where they bought them from,” Monyamane said.

“Many of them do not even have relevant documents allowing them to sell drugs,” he said.
The minister said government hospitals and clinics are the source of these drugs.
His sentiments come three months after a Mafeteng man, Khotso Ntemere, was charged with stealing drugs from Mafeteng Hospital. According to the charge sheet Ntemere stole drugs worth M90 645. Police deputy spokeswoman Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki said Ntemere was nabbed after other workers at the hospital realised that some boxes of drugs were missing on September 2 last year.

Motseki said the investigations showed that Ntemere who used to work at the hospital as a counsellor used a window that he knew was broken to get inside the storeroom. Motseki said Ntemere sold some of these drugs to a private doctor of Chinese origin who works in Mafeteng. It is however not clear why the Chinese doctor was not charged together with Motseki as an accomplice. Motseki said investigations are on-going.

For years the Ministry of Health has complained about the alarming rate of pilferage at government hospitals. It would seem that employees at government-owned hospitals and clinics work in cahoots with private surgeries and pharmacies.  Common medicines are free at government hospitals and those owned by the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL). But in most cases the facilities do not have such medication.  Yet most pharmacies, some of which operate near such hospitals and clinics, are fully stocked with such drugs.

Monyamane does not believe this is a coincidence but an indication that medicine from government health institutions is being illegally channelled to private pharmacies.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO) has revealed that it had discovered that there are rogue elements among some local pharmacists.
The DCEO said some pharmacists or other medical professionals employed by government steal drugs for resale at their private pharmacies.

The DCEO also says government pharmacists work in connivance with some doctors so that they refer patients to their own pharmacies.  The DCEO spokeswoman ’Matlhokomelo Senoko said currently there is only one local private pharmacist who is facing charges of corruption. Of particular interest to the syndicates are drugs for HIV, tuberculosis, Hypertension (BP), Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and Diabetes.

Incidentally these are infections that affect Basotho the most. The Lesotho Review 2015 edition says between 350 000 and 380 000 Basotho are currently living with HIV, and that the prevalence rate stands at 22.9 percent among those aged 15 to 49. Furthermore, around 36 000 children aged 14 and under have HIV, and there are 150 000 AIDS orphans in the 0-17 age bracket.

The study says Basotho people have also had to contend with a second epidemic, tuberculosis (TB), which spreads rapidly and is particularly deadly to an immune system already weakened by HIV. Lesotho has the fourth highest TB incidence in the world, estimated to be 630 per 100 000 of the population in 2012.

Furthermore, some 80 percent of patients identified with TB are co-infected with HIV.
Lesotho also faces an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, with WHO and other surveys undertaken in 2012 showing the prevalence of hypertension at 31 percent and diabetes at 1.3 percent. In 2012, hypertension was among the top ten conditions seen in outpatient departments, with stroke and heart failure responsible for six percent of deaths in males and two percent in females.

Deaths due to diabetes accounted for two percent and three percent for males and females, respectively. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Lesotho, and the leading cause of cancer death among women in the country —particularly for women living with HIV, who are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women who are HIV-negative.

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