THE Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) says it is hopeful that sanity will be restored at the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) with Professor Peter Mwaba currently at the helm of the institution as Interim Director General.

In an interview, ZMA Secretary General Dr Kaumba Tolopu said government needed to ensure that it employs competent individuals in order to avoid previous occurrences, otherwise consequences would be dire.

“It is a good thing that the ZAMMSA Board is in place and we support Professor Mwaba’s Board. We are hopeful that they will put in place mechanisms to prevent this from happening. This is a learning process and as a country we just need to ensure that this does not repeat itself otherwise the consequences are dire. Obviously, they are going to advertise and put in place people who will have met the standards. I think it is only fair that we need a process that is fair, transparent and ensures that people that are competent are put in that position,” Dr Tolopu said.

“We need to ensure that those positions are not political positions but positions on merit basis. So with that [in] place, we will be heading in the right direction. But if it is business as usual, then the same errors we are talking about today may come up again and we will have the same discussion. The plea is to ensure that the process is fair, transparent and puts in place people that are competent with adequate experience to run such institutions.”

Dr Tolopu said the gaps identified in the drug distribution process needed to be filled by recruiting a competent workforce.

“It is quite unfortunate that things are actually happening like that and then it had to take a whistleblower to bring those things to revelation. Otherwise, we would not have known. So it just goes to show the gaps that are there in the health system. From our point as ZMA, our plea is just to make sure that all those gaps are filled. That is why we have always stated that most of the workforce in this system is limited, hence the need for recruitment of people working in the same particular areas and stores,” he said.

“If drugs can move from a point to actually reach the end user and nobody has picked that up, it just goes to show that there are huge gaps. We feel that all stakeholders should be involved in these particular processes and as ZMA, we are always willing. That is why we have extended our hands to the Ministry of Health to any particular issues, be it inspection or whatsoever, we are available. So we need systems in place that can detect these errors so that they do not reach the end user to cause that effect.”

Dr Tolopu said ZAMMSA needed to engage interested stakeholders to help in improving the agency’s management system.

“We are now saying that two consumed [that medicine] but we do not know if that is the actual number. So we need to put in place mechanisms that will prevent such things. The only logical thing to do is to put in place systems. Where there are no systems, things are bound to fail. In the case of ZAMMSA, stakeholders should be involved as well to just carry out system checks. If you are going to evaluate yourselves, you are prone to error. But if you have a wide range of stakeholders that are interested in patients, because that is the end goal, that can pass through facilities and check systems, that makes everybody’s work easy. I think the Ministry of Health should put in place stringent measures to ensure such cases do not happen again,” said Dr Tolopu.