The National Drug Authority(NDA) has ordered all private pharmacies located in premises of government facilities to vacate with immediate effect.
“The president by a letter dated February 8, 2022 directed that all private pharmacies operating inside government hospitals should vacate. Subsequently, the Minister for Health has directed NDA to implement the said directive. Accordingly, NDA has requested the pharmacists in charge of the affected pharmacies to implement the directive with immediate effect,” a communication by the NDA chairperson, Dr.Medard Bitekyerezo reads in part.
The communication was sent to all Executive Directors of National Referral Hospitals, directors of Regional Referral Hospitals, medical superintendents of general hospitals and incharges of health centre IIs, IIIs and IVs.
The development comes a few days after the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, Dr.Byarugaba Baterana was interdicted over shs28.8billion spent by the hospital but unaccounted for.
This stemmed from an ongoing investigation by the State House Health Monitoring Unit into allegations of abuse of office, embezzlement, causing financial loss and fraudulent false accounting.
Baterana is also accused of allowing private pharmacies operate in Mulago Hospital illegally and to this, the pharmacies allegedly entered into a 10-year memorandum of understanding and tenancy agreements.
The pharmacies in question include Ecopharm and First Pharmacy that operate within Mulago hospital preemies.
The State House Health Monitoring Unit noted the pharmacies are operating without licences whereas they had also faulted on paying rent to a tune of shs135million(Ecopharm) and shs67 million for First Pharmacy.
Whereas NDA insists that the development stems from an earlier letter by President Museveni to the Health Ministry to implement his 2019 directive, many think the move has been further fueled by the latest developments involving embattled Mulago Hospital Executive Director, Dr.Baterana Byarugaba.
In 2019, President Museveni directed the Ministry of Health to shut down all private pharmacy shops in government health facilities.
“I am writing to direct you to close all the privately-owned pharmacy shops in government health centres. I am told that those pharmacies are owned by health workers. Instead of prescribing the use of government medicine, they prescribe the selling of their own drugs,” Museveni said in a September 30, 2019 letter to Dr.Jane Ruth Aceng.
This stemmed from complaints and reports by many Ugandans in regards the lack of medicines in public health facilities.
In several cases, when members of the public go to government hospitals and health centres, they are only given pain killers and a few antibiotics but asked to foot the bill for other medicines which are always readily available expensively at private pharmacies located within government health centres.
It is alleged that most of the stolen government drugs end up in these privately-owned pharmacies located near government hospitals.