HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says there will be a number of realignments in his ministry to boost accountability in a bid to restore public confidence.

And Dr Chanda says very soon, the procurement function will be shifted from the Ministry of Health, to Medical Stores Limited, once it is transformed to the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMSA).

Dr Chanda was speaking when he virtually conferred with British High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Woolley, Thursday.

“Just to reiterate, Your Excellency, that one of my mandates as a new Minister of Health is to restore public confidence in the health sector and to also restore the confidence of our stakeholders. And that is why I was putting the assurance on accountability and transparency and that is the culture that I will bring to the Ministry of Health. I also want to say that there will be a number of realignments that will be made in the Ministry of Health at various levels to ensure that we have efficiency in service delivery because we have to account for every resource that we are given so that the ultimate beneficiaries of all the support should be the Zambian people,” Dr Chanda said.

And Dr Chanda said his ministry remained committed to transforming Medical Stores Limited to the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMSA).

“Your Excellency, constant availability of quality, efficacious, safe and affordable essential medicines, vaccines and medical supplies in our facilities is a prerequisite for optimal service delivery. I therefore request you to continue supporting government to finance the procurement, storage and distribution of essential medical commodities. I also wish to reassure you, Your Excellency and all key stakeholders who support us that we remain committed to transforming Medical Stores Limited to the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMSA). And soon I will be signing the commencement order which is going to show that most of the procurement functions will shift from Ministry of Health to Medical Stores Limited which will be the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency. We are committed to this transferring of procurement functions from Ministry of Health. Only efficacious and safe medicines and medical supplies will be procured and reach our health facilities so that the Zambian people are not harmed through drugs or medical supplies that are not proven to be safe,” he said.

“I would like assure you the British government of the Ministry’s commitment to enhance transparency and accountability to spur confidence from our stakeholders and also from the Zambian people and ensure sustainability in our various programs in the health sector.”

Dr Chanda said the government of Zambia greatly appreciated the cordial relationship it continued to enjoy with the British government.

In response, High Commissioner Woolley said transparency was a very important pillar of his government’s relationship with the ministry in terms of mutual trust and respect.

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda urged the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) to pull up their socks by ensuring that defective medicines were detected on entry and not when they had already reached citizens.

Speaking during the tour of Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital, Friday, Dr Chanda urged ZAMRA to fulfil its mandate without having to wait for instructions from his Ministry.

“It doesn’t have the Ministry of Health to remind ZAMRA of its responsibilities, you have to act and you have to act decisively. If there are those pharmacies, not only for COVID-19, for any other condition, who are marketing or dispensing fake drugs, firstly, who gave them the marketing authorisation, secondly, have they been tested? Like you are saying now, you have a state of the art lab where you can test all these medicines and that brings me to another question because if we have a state of the art lab that can test the quality of these medicines, we don’t need to send samples like it was in the past we used to send to South Africa and other countries, now we can do that locally. If we can do that locally, why is it taking so long to recall products and we have cases in point of some paracetamol that has been topical where ZAMRA does it test, maybe in September, the recalls are happening in January, what’s happening in that six months? That’s the question we should all ask ourselves, in that period, has the patient been harmed, have the Zambian people been harmed, they have been harmed because if a product is out there floating around and then it takes you six or one year to recall a product then we are failing in our mandate,” said Dr Chanda.

“So I would urge ZAMRA pull up your socks so that when there is any report, you detect, you are the experts, you are the scientists, once you detect something, the recall must be immediate. But that’s even besides the point because what we want is in the first place, those substandard medicines, sub-standard allied substances we don’t want them on the market, that is where we start from… I must mention that the public confidence in the healthcare system has been tested and its quite low because people don’t know because of the topical issues that have happened, Zambians are worried whether some of the drugs that they have been taking are safe, some products that they have been taking are safe and that again comes back to regulation, how are we regulating and the law backs you, you don’t need a minister to tell you to work through the mandate that is given to you by law, so the minister, like myself, I am not above the law. So ZAMRA, I would urge you to execute your mandate fully, if we need to strengthen the law, you have to tell us, do we need an amendment to strengthen the law even further that is you to tell us. So with that said, our duty as the health sector is to protect the public.”

Earlier, ZAMRA acting director general Bonaventure Chilindi cited porous borders as the major challenge the authority was facing.

“In terms of challenges, honourable Minister, one of our biggest challenge is the porous borders, it continues to be a route through which substances and falsified products come into the country. So to cure this, one of the options on the table is to gazzete points of entry of medicines in the country so that medicines won’t be allowed in the country through specific ports so that it makes it easier for us to make sure that we control what is coming in the country. And also we want to enhance collaboration with other law enforcement agencies especially the security wings so they also assist us with the control of what is coming in the country. Illegal drug stores also continue to be a problem to us but our officers have been given plans to make sure that they go around the country, flat out Minister,” said Chilindi.