HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says some glitches shouldn’t cause citizens to lose faith in his ministry because health personnel are working tirelessly to save lives.
And Dr Chanda says statutory bodies must not wait for the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to prompt them to recall defective drugs but act expeditiously because their duty is to protect the public good.
Speaking at a COVID-19 media briefing, Wednesday, Dr Chanda said citizens must have confidence in the health system because they are in capable hands.
“If you go around our health facilities today, if you go to UTH, Levy, go to Livingstone, anywhere, you will find very well trained capable health workers, who are saving thousands of lives. So, some glitches in the Ministry will not [undermine] the hard work that our men and women are doing, which is very commendable work. In fact, even the situations that I am giving, we have health workers, doctors, nurses, lab people, who are working very long hours, understaffed, working very long hours to save lives and that is why even the mortality rates have been lower for Zambia, we have achieved a lot and so we commend our health workers. So, know that we are very capable. So, in terms of confidence, the public should have confidence that they are in very capable hands,” Dr Chanda said.
“But that said, what is in public domain, you know, like some things that have happened, which are viewed as harming the public good, there is a parliamentary process ongoing, what we call the Public Accounts Committee at Parliament, is interesting. I urge members of the media, members of the public who may want to give evidence to go to Parliament, submit.”
And Dr Chanda urged statutory bodies not to wait for PAC to prompt them to execute their mandate in ensuring defective products are kept away from public consumption.
“…But what I can say, that doesn’t stop our statutory bodies, whether they are ZAMRA, Medical Stores Limited, the boards there, they have their own mandate to take action. But the Executive will wait for the Public Accounts Committee, which, hopefully, will be tabled. But what we are saying is that, ZAMRA and Medical Stores, I have had meetings with the Medical Stores board this morning; I am meeting ZAMRA, the board chair and the team maybe tomorrow (Thursday) morning as well. For us, our concern is that the public good has to be protected, even while the process at Parliament is going on. So, this brings me to the issue of recalls. If defective products were supplied, whether they are condoms, they are gloves, you know, paracetamol, whatever product that is deemed to harm the public good, that has to be recalled expeditiously. We don’t want recalls that are happening at the prompting of Parliament. Without Parliament prompting, then you don’t recall? Then you are not living up to your mandate. So, our primary duty is to protect the public good,” he said.
He also assured that the Ministry would not import uncertified vaccines.
“The vaccines that we are talking about in terms of COVID-19, these are, I think it’s in public domain that they are well researched, they are well evaluated and Zambia will only bring in vaccines that are approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the FDA (Federal Drug Association), you know in the US. Those which meet international standards. We will not bring in ‘backyard vaccines,’ ‘junk vaccines,’ anyone who just comes to start injecting people! So, these are internationally-recognised. But that said, I know yesterday (Tuesday) on the main news, there was a statement on COVID-19 vaccines coming in within a month, we will be issuing a more comprehensive statement with all the detail because when it came out yesterday, someone was asking me, ‘is it a Chinese vaccine, is it Russian, is it American, is it European?’ So, the nation will be guided, but be assured, we will not bring in vaccines that are coming from anywhere else,” said Dr Chanda.
The Ministry of Health has in the past few days been the subject of public anger after it was revealed during a PAC session that Medical Stores distributed defective condoms and gloves in September 2020 and ZAMRA had not ordered a recall despite ZABS giving them a report to that effect.
ZAMRA only issued a recall order on Thursday last week, after suffering humiliation at PAC.
But Honeybee says it has not yet seen the letter and argues that there is nothing wrong with their supplies.