Health workers steal drugs

BULAWAYO - Some underpaid state health workers have resorted to stealing drugs for resale to pharmacists and surgeons so that they can augment the poor salaries they are being paid by the government.
Sources within Bulawayo's two state-owned hospitals, Mpilo and the United Bulawayo Hospitals (

UBH) told The Zimbabwean that some of their colleagues had resorted to stealing drugs in order to remain afloat under the country’s current economic crisis.
“There is nothing else we can do because the government is underpaying us. We cannot all leave for greener pastures, so those with access are stealing drugs for resale in order to make ends meet,” said a senior nurse at Mpilo on Monday.
The lowest paid nurse in Zimbabwe earns a basic monthly salary of about Z$4,5 million, against the country’s poverty datum line which stands at Z$10 million a month.
This revelation comes after police in Bulawayo arrested three people in the city and recovered an assortment of drugs believed to be worth more than Z$1billion last Wednesday, which are suspected to have been stolen from government hospitals.
Police sources revealed to The Zimbabwean that two of the suspects are employed at state government hospitals.
“Two of the men are dispensary workers at Mpilo and the United Bulawayo Hospitals. They are currently in police custody, as we hope to arrest more suspects, some of whom are people in authority at the hospitals. Most of the recovered drugs bear labels stating that they belong to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and we want to establish how they found their way into wrong hands. There should be a syndicate involving high ranking officials from the Ministry and some of these hospitals,” said a police officer who is privy to the case.
The first arrests were made after police had received a tip-off from members of the public and raided a medical supplier in Bulawayo where they recovered the drugs and surgical equipment.
The police sources revealed that the suspects had admitted to having been part of a syndicate that was stealing drugs from both public and private health institutions in Matabeleland for resale to local pharmacists, one of whom was also arrested on Wednesday.
“Most of these drugs are in critical short supply at government hospitals, yet they have been recovered here bearing Ministry of Health labels,” said a police source, adding that most of the recovered drugs were antibiotics.
Police spokesman, Oliver Mandipaka, also confirmed the arrests, but would not shed more light.
“We have made such arrests but I cannot tell you much about that because our officers are still investigating that case and making more arrests and recoveries,” he said.
Health and Child Welfare Minister, David Parirenyatwa said: “We know that such things are happening. That is why people are always complaining that they are not being given proper treatment at some of our hospitals, yet we always supply the hospitals with adequate drugs. We are going to investigate that and I am sure many will be arrested.” – Bayethe Zitha

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