Zim targets regional PPE exports, reduced health costs

The Chronicle

Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
GOVERNMENT is working on securing direct procurement of critical health products and equipment from global health producers in order to cut exorbitant middleman costs, while ensuring delivery of affordable health services to patients across the country.

In view of the growing domestic capacity in the production of hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPEs) as part of the comprehensive Covid-19 mitigation efforts, interventions are also being put in place to capacitate local entities to export these into the region and beyond.

The above measures are expected to enhance quality health service delivery, promote health tourism as well as assist the country in generating the much-needed foreign currency for the economy.

The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro revealed this during a tour on Saturday of the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the on-going Dubai Expo 2020 being hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Deputy Minister and his delegation were in that country to attend the global Arab Health Conference, which ended on Friday. He said the visit was an eye opener for Zimbabwe as the country’s delegation was exposed to modern health service standards and was able to engage fruitfully with potential global partners.

“As the Government and as a minister we want to make sure that our hospitals are well equipped and resourced.

When we came, we basically wanted to look at what the world has to offer in terms of quality, pricing and supply quantities.

“We found the gadgets that we need to fill up our hospitals and orthopedic equipment, medicines and so on.

Interestingly, we also found producers of ambulances and mass evacuation companies. We managed to engage and visit these companies and we were very impressed,” said Dr Mangwiro in a recording shared with Chronicle.

“As a country we definitely learnt a lot on how to maintain the equipment and get our equipment and we have managed to negotiate with large producers and manufacturers to say we need to deal with them directly and buy from them.

“This will help reduce prices because we will avoid a lot of difficulties we have when dealing with middleman who definitely make prices impossible for the Government.”

Dr Mangwiro said their meetings were fruitful as most global companies responded positively by indicating willingness “to deal directly with us as a ministry” and pledged that turnaround time when buying these items will be short.

“This gives us an opportunity also to say what we can do locally as a ministry and some ideas have come up in terms of what we can reduce and improve our services to the generality of our people,” he said.

“The idea is to ensure our people are served better and well-informed and well-improved service.”

The Deputy Minister applauded Zimbabwe’s participation at the Dubai Expo 2020 where he said the country’s interests were fully expressed in terms of the diversity of exhibits, which demonstrate the destination’s readiness for doing business with the international community.

He, however, stressed the need to also showcase the milestones and investment opportunities under the health sector saying this helps in enhancing local and international business confidence.

For instance, the Deputy Minister said Zimbabwe has made significant progress in domesticating production and supply of PPEs as well as enhancing broader health service investment and delivery.

Several Zimbabwean institutions of higher learning, small to medium and established companies, are already producing PPEs for their own consumption and are dominating supplies in the local market.

Under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, the Treasury has also been allocating huge resources towards the sector, with the 2022 budget setting aside Z$118 billion, inching closer to the Abuja Declaration that requires African countries to allocate at least 15 percent of their budgets to health.

“As a country we are now producing masks, sanitisers and most of the protective equipment (PPEs) locally. We need to work closely with foreign affairs so that we can start exporting these to our neighbours and help in getting the much-needed foreign currency,” said Dr Mangwiro.

Last week the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) expressed readiness to start manufacturing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing kits starting this month after taking delivery of a US$86 000-reagents manufacturing equipment. In addition to making Covid-19 testing kits, the new machinery can also make reagents for other viruses including HIV.

All along the country has relied on imports of PCR test kits and last year the Government released funds to procure the Oligomaker reagents manufacturing machine, which is expected to cut local test costs by at least 60 percent.

At the moment, a conclusive PCR test costs around US$60 and once the machine is operational, the cost is set to drop to about US$20.

“People must know that when they come to Zimbabwe, they are safe. For-instance we as Government are in the process of making sure that all our tollgates are manned by ambulances so that we reduce the distance if there is an accident,” said the deputy Minister.

“We are also working together with private players to facilitate airlifting of patients and ensuring that transfer times are shortened. This has been a missing link.

“We need tourists or anybody to be served when they travel across Zimbabwe. It’s important to encourage people that we are open for investments for construction of hospitals or services and that people can come and work with Government on business.”

He also noted that the exhibition of local traditional food stuffs such as amacimbi (mopane worms) and others nyemba/indumba was critical in terms of nutrition and urged Zimbabweans to market these more for exports.

Dr Mangwiro said his team returns home with a lot of critical information that will assist the ministry, including knowhow on modern disposal of waste material and newer health operational methods covering elements such as storage.

“Even storage itself has gone way beyond what we thought. There are newer methods of storing medicines, be it hospital equipment and other gadgets that need to be stored,” he said.

“We saw a lot and we are very impressed that we are here and we going to take no time to make sure that these observations are put into practice.”

Article Source: The Chronicle

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