Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Amid Covid, government health facilities running out of asthma inhalers

The next phase of tender process is expected to be approved soon by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board and framework contracts will be in place with sufficient risk mitigation plans for the next two to three years

Government hospitals and clinics are experiencing shortage of asthma inhalers at a period of time that a high-impact respiratory virus is sweeping across the globe.

Asked to confirm this to be the case and indicate the extent of the problem, Shirley Mukamambo, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Wellness responded: “Occasional shortages of inhalers are being experienced during this challenging times of the pandemic.”

She explained that the shortage was occasioned by disruption of the global supply chain since the pandemic began.

“Manufacturing and transportation of the products were delayed; the global demand continues to soar while the supply is shrinking causing scarcity in the markets. However, the respiratory solution that is used as a rescue for management of acute episodes of asthma is available in stock.”

To mitigate the current situation, the Ministry has provided funds to District Health Management Teams and hospitals to make what Mukamambo calls “local micro procurements.” The latter are meant to serve “as a safety net for healthcare facilities to procure stocks during such shortages from the local market.”

For more stable supply, orders that are yet to be delivered to Central Medical Stores are expedited and the Ministry hopes to replenish its stocks soon.

“The next phase of tender process is expected to be approved soon by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board and framework contracts will be in place with sufficient risk mitigation plans for the next two to three years. The above measures will collectively assist to address and prevent any potential shortages,” Mukamambo said.

Given their importance to healthcare, essential drugs and medical supplies (like asthma inhalers) should never run out. In response to a general question about the government’s policy on the availability of these, Mukamambo said that the Ministry “strives to achieve an availability target of 97 percent for all the essential medicines.”

Shortage of inhalers are double jeopardy at a time that a severe acute respiratory syndrome is still running rampant across the globe. Asthma itself is a respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. To control this condition, asthma patients need inhalers, which are hand-held, portable devices that deliver medication to the lungs through the mouth. In that regard, asthma is a risk factor for COVID-19.

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