Zimbabwe has a huge skills shortage in the pharmaceutical industry‚ lacking at least 12‚390 pharmacists to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
Zimbabwe’s Pharmacist to Patient ratio is 1:15 720, against the WHO recommended ratio of 1: 1 000.
This is according to Luckmore Bunu from the Retail Pharmacists Association, who was making a presentation on ‘Healthcare Fraud Prevention – Pharmacist’s Perspective’, at the recently held Healthcare Fraud Indaba, in Harare.
Skills shortage across the value chain is one of the biggest challenges the sector has experienced over the last few years.
Latest statistics from the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), – June, 2017- show that Zimbabwe has 826 registered pharmacists, 63 Pharmacy Technicians and only 87 dispensing medical practitioners.
The skills shortage in the sector together with, lack of functional public health pharmacies, limited resources of medical funders and the denial by some medical aid societies to pay claims for pharmacist initiated medicines (PIM), is hampering the right of the public to enjoy their right to health.
This has also left Patients with no access or limited access to both pharmacists, medicines and resources.
Chapter Four, Subsection 75 of Zimbabwe’s constitution clearly stipulates that every citizen and permanent resident has the right to have access to basic health-care services.
However, contrary to this, most people in Zimbabwe, including those on medical aid have been failing to get access to medicine.
“The pharmacist can initiate pharmacist initiated medicines (PIM), how many medical
aids honor claims of PIMs? Who then is defrauding the patient of their right to health? Is it the pharmacist? Or is it the medical aid?,” questioned Bunu.
Speaking on the need to fight healthcare fraud in the country, Bunu said such efforts should be centered on benefiting the patients and not on increasing the bottom line of medical aid societies.
“10% of population (are) on medical aid. Where must we fight fraud; to medical aids
(10%) or to cash patients (90%),” Bunu said.
“Very few people make use of medical aids. We can therefore argue that: We are
gathered here to increase the surplus of income over expenditure of medical aids at
the expense of the patients,” he added.
Bunu also said that high pharmacist to patient ratio was also the reason why some pharmacist were making some errors which could be construed as fraud.
“Given the high numbers of (patients) a pharmacist is treating. What is the odds of one making a typo that is claiming $30 for HCT (Hydrochlorothiazide), where one types $30 instead of 30 tablets,” Bunu said.
The Indaba ended by encouraging all stakeholders, including pharmacists to work together to come up with solutions to the problem of healthcare fraud, which is continuously increasing in Zimbabwe.