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MBABANE – To counter the backlog of patients in need of surgery, the Ministry of Health will engage four orthopaedic surgeons to assist at the Mbabane Government Hospital.

This was disclosed by the Director of Health Services, Dr Velephi Okello, yesterday, after being sought for a comment on what government was doing to assist the patients who last week blocked the entrance to the hospital in protest over the shortage of drugs, medical supplies and specialist doctors. About 15 patients complained about the waiting list at the orthopaedic theatre, where they showed their frustration by blocking the hospital’s main gate. The patients were wheeled of the wards on their beds, while others used wheelchairs and crutches. They complained about the serious shortage of medication, stating that this placed their lives at risk and that they were tired of the continuous empty promises by government.


Dr Okello shared that this was an interim plan aimed at reducing the backlog of patients in need of surgery as communicated by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Simon Zwane, on national radio last Thursday.  When asked on how long the doctors would work, she said she wouldn’t have a definite answer given that the plan had not yet been finalised. When this reporter arrived at the hospital yesterday, there were mixed reactions as some patients said they had received drugs for their various ailments while others said they did not. The patients said they were waiting to be assisted this week and if government failed to address their plight, they would seek other measures until their issues were addressed.

Swanky Mamba said he was tired of being at the hospital as he was admitted on June 23, 2023. “I am really tired of this place. I just wish to go to the theatre as soon as possible,” he said.
Another patient, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared that his workplace no longer trusted that he was in hospital as they wanted him to submit an admission letter, given that he had been admitted for over a month.  At the maternity ward, Uthando Ndlela from Mvakwelitje, who recently gave birth to her newborn, shared she had to purchase her own pills in order to get assistance. On the other hand, another new mother said: “I did not have to purchase anything including the gauze bandages as the hospital provided; all I had to pay was the E10 administration fee.”

However, most of the patients who were interviewed randomly were happy that government had finally done something to mitigate the ongoing drugs shortage. This was evident in that both pharmacies at the institution had patients queueing up to get their medication as per the norm. Furthermore, Dr Okello emphasised that the delivery of the drugs was already taking place at different facilities countrywide as she said the shortage had reached severe levels. “Therefore, it will take some time for the situation to normalise. The amounts being delivered are smaller than what is expected as per the demand. Since the new tender was released, it is expected that larger amounts of stock will be delivered,” she stated.

She further lamented that all shortages in hospitals were being addressed daily, since all public health facilities were supplied from one budget run by the Central Medical Stores (CMS).
Our sister publication, Eswatini News, reported that Cabinet had appointed a subgroup of ministers to assist in expediting medical supplies procurement after patients protested at the hospital. The subcommittee is led by Acting Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Jabulani Mabuza, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo and Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg, including Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi. The committee has until the end of this month to stabilise the country’s health sector and to ensure that all hospitals’ needs are addressed.