Mulago saga: NDA has orders that all private pharmacies removed from government hospitals with immediate effect

The National Drug Authority (NDA) has ordered that all private pharmacies located on the grounds of government facilities vacate their premises immediately.

“In a letter dated February 8, 2022, issued by president directed that all private pharmacies operating within government hospitals vacate. As a result, the Minister of Health has directed the NDA to carry out the directive. After that, the NDA chairperson, Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, has requested that the pharmacists in charge of the affected pharmacies implement the directive with immediate effect,” a communication by the NDA chairperson, Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, reads in part.

All Executive Directors of National Referral Hospitals, Directors of Regional Referral Hospitals, Medical Superintendents of General Hospitals, and Incharges of Health Centre IIs, IIIs, and IVs received the communication.

The result comes just a few days after the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, Dr Byarugaba Baterana, was arrested on suspicion of embezzling shs28.8 billion from the hospital.

The State House Health Monitoring Unit is conducting an investigation into allegations of abuse of office, embezzlement, causing financial loss, and fraudulent, false accounting.

Baterana also faced accusation because he allowed private pharmacies to operate in Mulago Hospital illegally, and because of this, the pharmacies allegedly entered into a 10-year memorandum of understanding and tenancy agreements.

Ecopharm and First Pharmacy, which operate within Mulago hospital preemies, are questioned.

According to the State House notice that the pharmacies are running and operating without licenses, they were forced to pay rent to a tune of shs135million (Ecopharm) and shs67 million for First Pharmacy.

Whereas NDA urges that the development stems from an earlier letter by President Museveni to the Health Ministry to enforce his 2019 directive, many think the move has been additionally fueled by the latest developments involving embattled Mulago Hospital Executive Director, Dr Baterana Byarugaba.

Some three years back in 2019, President Museveni directed the Ministry of Health to shut down all private pharmacy shops in government health facilities.

According to Museveni on September 30, 2019 letter to Dr Jane Ruth Aceng that I am writing this letter to direct you to close all the privately-owned pharmacy shops in government health centers. I am told that health workers own those pharmacies.
Rather than defining the use of government medicine, they prescribe the selling of their own drugs.”

This stemmed from many Ugandans’ complaints and reports regarding the lack of medicines in public health facilities.

In many cases, when members of the public visit government hospitals and health centers, they are only given pain relievers and a few antibiotics and are asked to foot the bill for other medicines that are always readily available and expensively priced at private pharmacies located within government health centers.

It is believed that most of the robbed government drugs end up in these privately-owned pharmacies located near government hospitals.