Comptroller and Auditor General Mildred Chiri says she is concerned that several hospitals in the country are keeping large quantities of expired medicines creating a risky situation for patients who may be given the drugs by mistake.
In a report presented to parliament following an audit of medicines in hospitals, the Comptroller and Auditor General said hospitals such as Binga and Victoria Falls in Matabeleland North and Hauna in Manicaland province are keeping medicines which expired between 10 to 20 years ago.
According to the report, the expired medicines are kept together with new drugs, a situation she describes as dangerous as the old medications could easily find their way to patients.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s office said the expired medicine must be disposed of in accordance with Treasury and the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe regulations.
Doctor Ruth Labode, chairperson of the National Assembly’s Health and Child Care portfolio committee said she fears that if the expired medicines are not destroyed they may find their way to private institutions or the black market.
Labode said some of the hospitals have no pharmacists and the law must be changed to allow police officers and non-pharmaceutical staffers at these hospitals to destroy expired medicines.
Blessing Chebundo, who chaired the health portfolio committee of the seventh parliament, said the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General shows that medicine management in government hospitals is not up to scratch and needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency.
Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa could not be reached for comment on what measures his ministry is taking to address the problem.
But the Comptroller and Auditor General recommends that stock checks should be conducted periodically so the medicines are monitored and controlled effectively.
Another recommendation is that hospitals should have re-order levels that are reasonable so as to minimize the risk of having excess medicines which may end up expiring before use.
Chebundo further said it is surprising that Zimbabwe, which has been experiencing serious drug shortages over the last 10 years, has so much expired medicines lying idle in hospitals.