Health Minister Sets Technical Committee For Public Hospital Equipment

HEALTH and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo has set up a technical committee for the coordination of hospital equipment procurement processes which is end user driven and under NatPharm.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

This development comes at a time when medical professionals decry obsolete equipment and user-unfriendly machines and instruments.

Dr Moyo in an interview revealed his plan to replenish the public health sector with adequate, accurate and trending equipment and sundries.

On Thursday, the committee was set up with Dr Harunavamwe Chifamba appointed by the Minister to chair it, and tasked with the mission of seeing to it that hospital personnel get the tools they need in their trade. Dr Chifamba will be steering this committee alongside other NatPharm board members.

So already within the Board of NatPharm, we have persons with the capability to be able to steer that committee. So it’s a committee of NatPharm responsible for the procurement of equipment. We have chosen Dr Chifamba who is a member of the board. She is a fully qualified specialist anaesthetist. So she is very familiar with hospital equipment and has always been involved in the purchasing, selection and evaluation of anaesthetic machines and medicines,” he said.

To avoid circumstances of procuring user-unfriendly equipment or being duped, the Health Minister noted the importance of an all-inclusive participatory buying process involving the health practitioners. He said this is critical to promote transparency.

“They are not going to be working alone. While Dr Chifamba is the Chair, she will be expected to formulate the full committee which is comprised of representatives from all the Central hospital departments and Provincial Medical Directors and their teams. She will therefore coordinate the whole exercise and call for the meetings of the committee and to ensure that each and every specialist department is represented by the end users of that particular department. All the various disciplines will be represented. There is no end user department which will not be represented in that committee. We have moved away from the issue of purchases of equipment outside the end users jurisdiction.

“We want every piece of equipment like what we have done with medicines, to be selected by the end users because they are the ones who will be using the equipment. You can’t have a situation which happened with some previous equipment tenders a few years ago, where equipment suddenly arrived in departments to the surprise of the end users who were not aware who had chosen the equipment. So we do not subscribe to a system that is not end user driven.

“So everything is going to be end user driven. That is my key message. In setting up this committee we want the end user to participate. So the CEOs and clinical directors, from hospitals will select representative from each and every department to be seconded to the main committee chaired by Dr Chifamba,” the Minister said. Provincial directors and their medical superintendents will also select representatives from their institutions to be in the meetings. So nobody will be left behind. Hospital equipment engineers, technicians will also be part and parcel of this committee to make sure everything is done properly,” he said.

The Minister said he wanted to see proper numbers and selection of equipment being listed and where relevant, particular brands being recommended. He underscored that the procurement process must be very transparent with everyone participating and signing for the selection of the equipment they will have made so that there is no comebacks.

“So in terms of equipment, a key driver in ensuring that our workplace is conducive in the hospitals, we need to make sure that we come up with the ideal lists of equipment for use in our health institutions at all levels. This encompasses the equipment we require at rural health care centres, district, and provincial and tertiary hospital levels. It does not necessarily mean that if we identify the ideal requirements we will be purchasing everything in one go. The committee will accordingly look at the demand at a particular institutional level and then come up with a purchasing plan,” he said.

Dr Moyo said the technical committee should be cautious when purchasing the required items.

“The other issue is that once a products list if finalised, the procurement systems to be utilized for the procurement of equipment will vary. For instance, it is not relevant to make outright purchases for dialysis machines, laboratory analyzers or x-ray diagnostic equipment as placements would be more relevant. These should come as placements and we just buy the consumables to be used on the equipment. Instead of having to pay double where you have to buy for the equipment and then for the consumables, we don’t have to do that.

“All the money that is supposed to buy the equipment will be put into consumables by allowing the companies to place their machines in our institutions. The selection of machines will be done by end users through transparent tender processes.
“With equipment placement schemes, the companies are the ones who maintain the equipment and upgrade and replace the machines as they age or as new technologies come into play.” he said.

Dr Moyo said the committee will also look into the procurement of surgical instruments after receiving complaints that surgeons were having the problem of blunt surgical knives and scissors when trying to work on patients.

He noted that service contracts are a must.

“At the same time, it is essential we have service contracts for all these machines. Any piece of equipment that is bought must have service contracts. Without service contracts you are wasting your time and money. So we want service contracts to be available. A case in point is radiotherapy equipment. We have said that we need to see all these machines with full service contracts.

“We want to make sure that there is adequate spares which will run right through beyond the warranty period. They must be there. We want to make sure that this is in place. “And we must make sure that all the equipment have startup consumables. If you buy a machine with no consumables then you won’t be able to run it. So we must have at least six months stock of startup consumables. Otherwise it will be a white elephant,” the Minister said.

Added the Health Minister, “That committee has got a lot of work to do and it’s a continuous exercise. As Ministry we are just giving the guidelines of what we want to see happening. But the actual prescription should be done by the end users. They are the ones who should be able to do that. We want to save a lot of money, forex. We don’t want a situation where our forex is wasted.

“We are saying we don’t want to buy machines which are of poor quality. We don’t want to buy equipment which will last for only three months and then it’s broken down. It must be the popular brands which are robust and long lasting and accurate when it comes to diagnostics.”

The Health Minister said the committee should directly deal with manufacturers in order to secure better deals. The Minister however said this will not undermine the role of local representatives of these manufacturers.

“It’s in the interest of the manufacturer to have representatives and also for transfer technology. If the manufacturers decide to have their own representatives we can’t stop them from doing that. But when it comes to the original purchase, it’s directly. Anything else to do with backup service, naturally we know that the manufacturer will want to identify a local representative. We also want that in terms of back up service for the purpose of ensuring that there is an immediate response to any machine which would have broken down. That we accept. It is necessary. But the initial purchase has to be done directly with the manufacturer,” he said.

The end users will be sent to the manufacturers’ factories or where the equipment is being used for evaluation purposes.

“We want to be able to send our specialists who would have chosen a particular equipment. If there are three or four companies who have submitted their equipment for tendering, we want to take our specialists to the respective factories or hospitals where these machines are being used if these are new brands for evaluation so that they see the equipment in use for themselves, and satisfy themselves with the performance of the equipment, and the relevance for their needs,” he said.

He has given the committee three weeks to come up with the composite list of medical equipment with estimated costings after which funding mechanisms would be put in place.

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