THE Medical Stores Limited (MSL) Board says it is excited that ‘recent events’ have caused an acceleration to the rebranding process at the institution.

And the board has refused to disclose the quantities of defective drugs and products which were distributed versus those which were consumed by members of the public, saying it doesn’t have the information readily available.

Speaking during a press briefing, Wednesday, MSL vice board chairperson James Kapesa said recent events would accelerate the rebranding of Medical Stores to the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA).

“The board and management is focusing within the ZAMMSA Act on creating a Drug Fund. This is one of the most attractive and comprehensive attempts to solve the challenges we face around erratic supplies of medicines, around financing of medicines but above all around the accountability of medicines. All the way from procurement to the bed side of our members. You will be happy to know that institutions like the National Health Insurance Management Authority will start to take a prominent role in the financing through economies of the scale of the new drug Fund. And so we are excited as the board that the events of the last few weeks and months have hastened the need for us to work with the Ministry of Health to bring these changes into Medical Stores,” Kapesa said.

He said the transition from MSL to ZAMMSA was a massive show of commitment from government in addressing some of the challenges which MSL faced.

“You must be aware that the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency bill was enacted into law in 2019. And in June 2020 a transition board was put in place by the Minister of Health as part of the preparations for the transition that moved Medical Stores into ZAMMSA, the board working together with management has been reviewing operating procedures to back trace and support our control environment,”Kapesa said.

“In this regard and precipitated by the recent happenings from the Public Accounts Committee, the board of medical stores convened quickly, deliberated and decided that the following steps are important for the integrity of the operations and also in preparation for the eminent transfer of Medical Stores operations to ZAMMSA. The board resolved that we need to accelerate our discussions with Ministry of Health so that the transition from MSL to ZAMMSA is accelerated, enhanced and completed in good time. Now, the transition from MSL to ZAMMSA is a massive commitment by the government to address the underlying, the root causes of some of the challenges MSL faces. At the core, the new ZAMMSA will take care of four road components. It will transfer the procurement of medicines which currently sits at the Ministry of Health to the newly to be formed ZAMMSA.”

He said the transition would enable ZAMMSA to operate with full capacity to generate its own revenue over time without depending on the treasury.

“The board also sat and reviewed further our quality assurance and control environment. In this case the board is building management to ensure that we go up to our quality control, our quality assurance and and make sure that all the gaps that are available and all the gaps are closed even before we get to the new ZAMMSA so there will be a lot of focus in the new ZAMMSA in redirecting resources including finances into quality assurance. So that at the time any commodity is leaving our care and control the board and management are contended that the commodity is safe and efficacious,” he said.

“The transition to ZAMMSA also portends significant structural changes, organisational changes and makes sure all the operating inefficiencies and lacunas that are visible in the current MSL are addressed from the root not from the leaves. We are also confident as the transition board that as we transition to ZAMMSA we will have full visibility in how we can make the new ZAMMSA fully and commercially viable focusing on cost consciousness and control and above all creating multiple income streams that makes the new ZAMMSA less dependent on the treasury. With full capacity to generate its own revenue over time.”

He confirmed that the board had fired Chikuta Mbewe.

“The board also decided to make changes at top management as part of the ongoing process to transition into ZAMSA. In this regard the Managing Director of then MSL has since been relieved of his duties as we speak a new office holder in the name of Chipopa Kazuma will be acting for administrative purposes until the board appoints a substantive managing director,” he said.

Meanwhile, when asked about the quantities of defective drugs distributed, Kapesa said he did not have the figures.

“We are unable to speak to recalled drugs because that is not our province. We are also unable to speak to matters that are in court that are also outside our radius. So what is the quantity of the drugs distributed that we distributed? I wish I had the numbers here. We distribute numbers on a daily basis and to give you a pin point figure of the drugs that we have distributed, I think that information can be made available once we prepare that because off the-caf we don’t have that information,” said Kapesa.