HEALTH Minister Sylvia Masebo says there are some senior medical officers at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) who are forever on WhatsApp or watching TV as patients wait for service.

And Masebo says government will not be exploited by local suppliers who want to sell drugs at three times the normal price.

Meanwhile, Zambia has lost more than 300 health workers due to COVID-19.

Speaking during a briefing, Monday, Masebo said there were some senior medical officers at UTH who were forever on WhatsApp or watching TV as patients waited to be attended to.

“I would like to thank the staff at Kabwata clinic and Chilenje clinic because I have heard remarks from the public on their commitment. It is very pleasing to get good news from the public. I hope that my instruction of not using phones while people are on duty has been implemented. We do not expect a doctor or a nurse while on duty but making personal calls during working hours. Keep your phone away and during breaks, you can use it but not on duty. I also ask the public not to allow a nurse attending to you to use their phone. I have also been told there are some senior medical officers at UTH who are forever on WhatsApp. People are talking and we have to change our attitude. We all love phones but you must restrain yourself. Some of them watch television while the patient is dying in the middle of the night. Some are busy watching Telemundo or whatever they call it. Let us be committed,” Masebo said.

And Masebo said government would not be exploited by local suppliers who wanted to sell drugs at three times the normal price.

“As government, we are encouraging more pharmacy industries to be set up. I am sure that in the next few months, a number of pharmacies will be open. We will be getting more supplies locally. Government is also working with other governments to help fill up the gaps of certain drugs that are not available. Under ZAMMSA, there is a drug fund that has been created but not fully operational. That will help us in the long run to have availability of resources to pay cash for the drugs. We do not want to do what our friends were doing in the past getting drugs on credit and the suppliers giving crazy prices. We do not want to act desperate,” she said.

“We do not want to end up getting prices that are not justifiable and do not have value for goods. We have entered into MoUs with other governments to assist in the supply so that we can also import from other countries at better prices. We cannot have a situation where a drug locally is three times the price of the drug outside this country. When there is no competition, people begin to abuse that arrangement. So we will not allow local production to abuse the government for three times the price of the product. We are going to be responsible to get from other sources which are cheaper and of value.”

Meanwhile, Masebo said 300 health workers had succumbed to COVID-19.

“The pandemic has resulted in many infections and deaths among health care workers and their households. It is estimated that globally, the world has lost between 80,000 to 180,000 health workers. Here in Zambia, we have lost more than 300 health workers from COVID-19. There are several multidimensional factors related to COVID-19 that affect health care workers. There has been a shortage of adequate and skilled workforce resulting in short term hire of the unemployed. There have been challenges with surge capacities when infections have risen so much to levels where our hospitals reach capacity,” she said.

“This has in turn led to increased stress, burn out, high infections and deaths and other mental health disorders. This is compounded with quarantine and self-isolation for those in the frontline when they get exposed. Health care workers sometimes have not been protected enough due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). They have sometimes been subjected to lacking incentives and insurance and even the much needed psychosocial support. We therefore acknowledge the achievements and contributions of these workers despite the mental, physical, social and economic burden that has affected them.”

Masebo said the second nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign had been slated for May 14, 2022.

“In the just ended week, we recorded 456 new cases, with 42 new admissions. This marks a 40% reduction in cases but a 68% increase in admissions compared to the previous week’s figures of 762 cases and 25 admissions. On an encouraging note, we did not record any new COVID-related deaths this past week. In addition, our overall national positivity rate reduced from 5% to 3%. We start this new week having recorded only 22 new cases in the last 24 hours out of 1,004 tests conducted countrywide. Notably, Eastern and Luapula provinces did not record any new cases from the tests they conducted. The overall national positivity today is at 2%,” said Masebo.

“We have 513 active cases, with 35 currently admitted to healthcare facilities across the country. Of the hospitalised, five are on oxygen therapy, and none are in critical condition. We will be providing an opportunity for those not yet vaccinated to get access during this coming nationwide campaign. However, I must mention that the launch has been rescheduled to start on 14th May, 2022. This is to allow adequate social mobilisation as our multisectoral teams including the health and local authorities engage our communities. Our target is to have 70% of our eligible population vaccinated by the end of June 2022.”