By Anna Chibamu
HEALTH and Child Care Minister, Obadiah Moyo has begged and simultaneously issued threats on local pharmacies and wholesalers demanding US dollar payments for drugs.
He was responding to questions from Senators Thursday on what steps government was taking to remedy a crisis that continued to threaten lives.
Moyo urged pharmacies to accept payment in local currency in the interest of suffering locals who had no access to forex.
“The pharmacies and medical aid companies should accept bond note in swipe, RTGS or cash form,” the minister said.
“We are begging our pharmacies not to sell drugs in forex to our patients and wholesalers too should not charge drugs in US dollars to pharmacies.”
This comes after many Zimbabwean business owners have defiantly switched to the more stable currency as the local bond note’s value keeps diminishing compared to the US dollar.
In the alternative, businesses have maintained prices in local currency but have priced them three times inorder to match the prevailing black market value of the greenback.
Moyo, in his remarks, also warned that action shall be taken on errant pharmacies once investigations into who among the players were diverting and abusing forex sourced and supplied by government to purchase drugs.
“We are all fighting against those selling drugs in US dollars. It is painful for us as government that we are having forex challenges.
“We must be careful when we do some of these transactions.
“We (government) do not want to be accused of taking licences from those abusing the forex facility from government,” he said.
The minister said the kind of action to be taken against offenders was going to depend on meetings being held by Ministries of Justice, Finance and Health.
He said government will not rush to revoke licences before thorough investigations on what was taking place in the essential industry were put in place.
Moyo said the Indian government has put up a commitment to supply the country with required drugs “as a matter of urgency” but this may take a bit of time as drugs often took some four months to be ordered, manufactured and delivered from the vast South Asian country.
Most pharmacies in the country have also suspended medical aid cards for the purchase of drugs while private hospitals have also hiked their charges.
Pharmacies have said they were charging in forex so they could be able to continue providing life prolonging drugs.
Ordinary Zimbabweans are up in arms with their government which often spends millions flying top officials to foreign hospitals while locals are subjected to the country’s poor health systems.