Drugs have run out and there are shortages of nurses, midwives and other health professionals. Fuel frequently runs out and ambulances and other vehicles have broken down.
Among the major challenges faced by the ministry are a shortage of drugs, delayed payment of service providers, frequent shortages of fuel, the breakdown of transport and shortages in human resources.
The information was contained in the ministry’s first quarter performance report delivered to the Swazi parliament.
Part of the report states, ‘While most patients were negatively affected, highly impacted patients were those on psychiatric medication, which stocked out for longer periods and those taking anti-hypertensive treatment. The main cause for stock-outs is failure to pay suppliers on time due to the fiscal challenges facing the government.’
The government which is not elected but chosen by absolute monarch King Mswati III owes about E3 billion (US$340 million) to suppliers across all public services, including schools.
The report said that within the health sector most facilities had been negatively affected by the delayed payment and subsequent withdrawal of services by service providers. This included catering, security, servicing of medical equipment, immunisation, external referrals, cleaning materials and protective supplies.
‘This has negatively affected the provision of health services, thus reducing the quality of patient stay at facilities,’ the report added.
The report stated there were a total of 179 vacant positions at the end of March 2019; including 19 medical or dental officers, 77 nurses or midwives and 83 allied health professionals, administrative and support staff. At least 400 qualified nurses were unemployed, Director of Health Services Dr Vusi Magagula recently told a meeting of pensioners in Mbabane.
The crisis has been deepening for a number of years. At least six children were reported to have died from diarrhoea earlier this month (August 2019). Drugs to treat them were unavailable.
Collection points have been set up across Mbabane, the Swaziland capital, to collect donations to feed hospital patients left hungry after the government failed to pay food suppliers. Food banks organised by members of the public working as the ‘Emergency Disaster Network’ have set up collection points for donations at various points across the city for patients at the Mbabane Government Hospital. Food items, ranging from bags of beans, rice, chicken portions and sugar have been collected, the Swazi Observer reported. Cash donations have also been made. Food shortages had also hit two other public hospitals, Hlatikhulu Government Hospital and Nhlangano Health Centre, both in the Shiselweni Region.
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