MASERU – MANY state-owned and community health centres countrywide have run out of drugs, resulting in patients being forced to buy prescribed medicines from expensive private pharmacies.
Some health officials have blamed the supplier of drugs, the National Drug Service Organisation (NDSO), for delaying distribution of medicines to clinics. The Ministry of Health spokesperson, ’Mamolise Falatsa, was not available for comment.
NDSO Public Relations Officer, Bokang Ntsoeu said the institution delivers medicines to clinics on a weekly basis to the North, South, Central and Highland regions.
“Orders are dealt with within five working days but when there is a crisis of any illness, an emergency request is made and we have never received such from any facilities.
“We were all surprised to learn about that,” she said.
She said the NDSO made deliveries to the central region “without any problems” this week for those that made requisitions on time.
“It’s not true that we delay deliveries when everything is done properly,” she said, revealing that on Tuesday, a driver returned with Domiciliary Clinic drugs with the explanation that employees said they had already knocked off and there was no one to take delivery of the drugs.
The lack of some drugs in the clinics has frustrated patients, some of whom are too poor to afford medicines from private pharmacies.
This became evident in the case of the Maseru City Council (MCC)’s two health centres that have run out of flu medications.
Thamae and Khubetsoana Clinics ran out of drugs from August to early September, forcing their chemists to direct patients to private establishments in the city. This happened at a time when there was a high prevalence of flu in Maseru.
The Principal Health Inspector at the MCC’s Thamae Clinic, ’Maseitshiro Khooe, said they have since placed orders but have not received the drugs.
“The challenge is communication with our supplier as often it’s back and forth (thereby) delaying delivery,” Khooe said.
“At first, I thought it was monetary issues but that one I ruled out after approaching our finance department,” she said, refusing to reveal the supplier.
However, thepost has established through the Health Ministry that the supplier of drugs in all health facilities in the country is the NDSO.
The NDSO was established as a non-profit organisation in 1979 to procure, store, and distribute quality medicines and medical commodities for health institutions in Lesotho.
The health institutions include government hospitals and health centres, Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) facilities and private clinics and pharmacies.
She said they end up sharing “the little we have” with a sister clinic in Khubetsoana.
She said they cannot ask their other partners to share their drug stock “because they too are running low”.
“We crossed fingers hoping that we don’t run out of essential drugs (for those with chronic illnesses) before receiving our consignment,” she said.
“Limited competition or serving a lot of clinics overwhelms the supplier as other clinics complain about experiencing similar problems.
“We then become victims as the market seems monopolised. I am not really sure what the reason behind the delay is,” said Khooe.
She said the clinics record about 80 patients, children and adults, suffering from flu weekly.
She said the number of flu patients has doubled in Khubetsoana.
However, she said their analysis revealed that this is not linked to Covid-19 as many people had earlier suspected.
“It does not sit well with us that we don’t give full services… it is beyond us and our clientele should bear with us because we want to provide quality service.”
’Maselloane Mofosi (names changed at request) who brought her two-year-old son to Thamae Clinic when thepost visited the clinic on Monday last week said the child had been suffering from flu for two weeks.
“It is the second time I brought him back here because during the first visit there was no medication,” Mofosi said.
“We were only given a prescription and they recommended that I buy the medicines from a private chemist,” she said.
“I didn’t buy any of the four recommended drugs because I am broke so I came back again hoping drugs were now available. I am disappointed to learn they still don’t have them,” said the patient.
Asked why she did not go to other clinics, she said apart from Thamae being nearer to her, health workers there are “friendly”.
Another patient, Neo Sello, said he had been battling with flu for a week before visiting the health facility.
He too was prescribed medication to buy from a private chemist.
“I am disappointed because I already paid to get services. I wouldn’t have wasted my M20 if I knew there was no medication,” Sello said, adding: “I will buy the drugs from a private chemist because I don’t have any other choice.”
Sello suggested that the clinic puts up a memo that informs flu patients of the drug shortages “so that people don’t waste their time and money paying for half services”.
Health services are paid for at the MCC clinics as opposed to other government and CHAL-owned health institutions countrywide.
The CHAL spokesperson, Lebohang Liphapang, said shortage of medication is a general problem faced by their health facilities.
“It has been a challenge for years. It’s a general problem deriving from subvention (delay),” Liphapang said.
She said the major challenge is that the government gives CHAL the same amount of subvention money even though medication is getting expensive due to inflation.
“We can’t afford the medication and if we still get the same amount, there is no way that it will cater for all the needs of the facility’s operations. Operations and drugs are already a challenge,” she said.
“If any medical equipment breaks down, servicing it will be a problem because we don’t have that included in our budget,” she said.
She said at some of their clinics that have run out of flu drugs, officials employ different strategies depending on work for the clinic.
“Some prescribe medication for patients to buy them at a private pharmacy while others who don’t have enough drugs will give out any of the available drugs.”
Liphapang said they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which determines their operation with the Health Ministry more than a decade ago.
“It expired a long time ago and this is hindering the smooth operations of facilities. By right it was supposed to be reviewed each and every three years to improve the partnership,” she said.
“The biggest challenge is that the government delays its review because it knows that the review will have financial implications on it.”
The NDSO does not receive funding directly from the government and must recover all its costs through a handling (mark-up) fee system.
Sales of drugs and other medical equipment are ideally the sole source of revenue and income that must cover the NDSO’s total expenditures.
An official at the NDSO who chose to remain anonymous as she was not authorised to comment said health facilities, especially government-owned, do not receive timely information about their budget situation.
As a result, they fail to submit corresponding health supplies purchase orders to the NDSO.
The official blamed health centres for poor inventory management, lack of knowledge about their budgets and failure to follow procurement procedures for the scarce drug stock.
SR mob attacks journalist
MASERU – TŠENOLO FM presenter, Abiel Sebolai, was allegedly beaten and injured by a mob of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) supporters on Saturday.
Sebolai said the mob, which he suspected was drunk, attacked him with fists, sticks and stones.
He said the group was enraged after he tried to take pictures of their cars which belonged to the Ministry of Local Government
Sebolai told thepost that he had gone to Thaba-Tseka with the Thaba-Moea MP, Puseletso Lejone Paulose, on a work trip when he spotted a group of people clad in SR regalia riding in the government vehicle, hoisting beer bottles.
“We were in Mantšonyane when I saw the Local Government vehicle full of men and women with bottles of beer in their hands,” Sebolai said.
“I saw that the majority were wearing Socialist Revolutionaries regalia.”
He wanted to talk about the abuse of government vehicles on his programme the next day.
“I then took out my phone to capture a few pictures and a video,” he said.
He said just as he started taking pictures, the vehicle made a U-turn and approached him.
“The driver came to me and asked me what I was doing with my phone,” he said.
He said he told the driver that there was nothing wrong with taking pictures as a journalist.
“The person I was with reprimanded him and he attempted to walk away only to turn back and punch me.”
“After the first punch, I retaliated by throwing a punch too. I managed to hit him hard and he fell.”
He said the group then jumped off the car and started assaulting him with stones and sticks.
Sebolai said he tried to flee but was stopped by the “stones that were coming to me like rain until I was hit and fell”.
“What nearly took my life was a stone that was thrown while I was falling. It hit me on the forehead and from then I went blind.”
“They were insulting me so much.”
Sebolai said he was helped by a Good Samaritan who risked his life to drag him into his vehicle.
“From there I was taken to the clinic in Lesobeng before an ambulance took me to Mantšonyane Hospital.”
“I went to the Mantšonyane police station where I found the same Local Government vehicle parked,” he said.
“I am told that the Local Government Minister instructed it to be impounded and my assailants arrested.”
He complained that he was injured while doing his work “but the Ministry (of Communications) and MISA are silent about my attack”.
The SR spokesman, Thabo Shao, told thepost that they received a report about the incident and the party does not “condone that behaviour”.
“I hear arrests are not yet made, those people should be arrested,” he said.
The MISA director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, said the board will soon meet to discuss the matter and call the victim before issuing a statement.
“We are going to work it out and then issue a condemnation,” Ntsukunyane said.
Infighting rocks BNP
MASERU – THE Basotho National Party (BNP) has become the latest party to be rocked by infighting triggered by its dismal performance in the October election.
As the party grapples to come to terms with its thumping defeat bigwigs have been pelting each other with blame for the poor performance.
So intense is the internal feuding that the party is now said to be on the verge of implosion.
In the tug of war is the party’s secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane, who this week fired a salvo at party leader Machesetsa Mofomobe.
Hanyane told a press conference on Tuesday that Mofomobe should accept the blame for leading the party to its worst election defeat in history.
He said instead of taking responsibility as a leader, Mofomobe is blaming him for the dismissal performance.
Mofomobe has however fired back, accusing Hanyane of being rebellious.
“It has been a while since I have been shouldering the blame for the general election’s poor results,” Hanyane said, adding that Mofomobe has been instigating his supporters to insult him.
He said the party did not perform well because it didn’t have money to campaign.
He said the BNP did not get its share of the political campaign funding from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) because it failed to account for what it received in the 2015 election.
Out of the M175 000 that the BNP was supposed to get from the IEC, it got only M15 000 as campaign funds, Hanyane said.
He also said those in the past BNP national executive committee, of which Mofomobe was a member, did not account for the campaign funding received in 2017.
“As a result, our party failed to secure M111 000.”
Hanyane said because of the financial problems the party used rentals from its BNP Centre to fund the rallies in Maputsoe, Quthing, Mafeteng and Teya-Teyaneng.
He said this was the first time since 1993 that the party could not afford to print campaign regalia.
Hanyane also said the national executive committee is chaotic under Mofomobe’s leadership.
“They accuse other members of sabotage, which shows a lack of cooperation in the party.”
Mofomobe, Hanyane added, spent more time mocking other party leaders instead of advancing the BNP’s values and policies.
He said instead of pleading with members of other parties to vote for the BNP, Mofomobe called them “idiots beyond redemption”.
No wonder, Hanyane said, people turned against the party.
He said Mofomobe was not ashamed to use valuable campaign time to mock leaders who own aeroplanes.
“He said their aeroplanes were made of cardboxes, and that was his campaign message,” he said.
He also said the BNP supporters were put off by Mofomobe’s close relations with
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu.
“That issue did not sit well with some party supporters and followers in constituencies,” Hanyane said.
He said Mofomobe angered the chiefs and the church, the party’s traditional pillars.
“The chiefs regarded our party as one of the parties that were fighting them and the church too, those are the pillars of the party.”
He said Mofomobe should “go back and apologise to the chiefs and the church for hurting them”.
“The leadership should also apologise to the members where they did wrong.”
Mofomobe however said Hanyane will face the music for organising a press conference without the national executive committee’s approval.
“The party will meet as soon as possible to take internal measures against the secretary general for doing what he did,” Mofomobe said.
He accused Hanyane of ignoring his orders.
“I told him to go on radio to campaign for the Stadium Area elections but he refused and I ended up going there myself,” Mofomobe said.
He said he will not hate Mokhothu without a valid reason.
“I will not hate him just because people want me to hate him,” he said.
He also stated that although they work well with Mokhothu he has his own reservations that include the DC’s support for Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been wallowing in remand prison for the past five years as he goes through trial for murder, attempted murders and treason charges.
The DC is on record pushing for the withdrawal of charges against Lt Gen Kamoli.
Mofomobe said he is not the first BNP leader to work with congress parties as Leabua Jonathan, the party founder, once worked with Basutoland Congress Party (BCP)’s Pokane Ramoreboli who he made justice minister.
Rogue soldier loses bid to save job
MASERU – A soldier who insulted his superior for stopping him from joining a crowd that later killed a civilian during a drunken fit of anger at a bar has lost his bid to overturn his dismissal from the army.
The Court of Appeal last week ruled that army commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, followed the law to the letter when he fired Private Lehlohonolo Alotsi.
The case was before the President of the Court of Appeal, Professor Kananelo Mosito, Justices Phillip Musonda and November Mtshiya.
The court found that on Christmas Day of 2018, Alotsi, together with nine other soldiers, was on patrol at the Ha-Peete Military Base.
They went to a local bar and ended up staying outside the barracks until after 10pm, which is the prescribed time for soldiers to be back inside the barracks. A fight broke out at the bar between the soldiers and some civilians.
The soldiers went back to the barracks and ordered their superior, one Corporal Thabi, to hand over some riffles to them. Corporal Thabi ordered them not to go but his orders were ignored.
Alotsi told the court that he did not go but admitted that he used abusive language against his superior. Thereafter there was a shootout at the bar leading to the death of a civilian. Some civilians were also injured in the shootout.
On New Year’s Eve Alotsi and his co-accused appeared before Presiding Officer, Major Lekoatsa, for summary trial relating to military offences they had committed at Ha-Peete. They all pleaded guilty to the charges laid against them.
Alotsi was charged with disobedience, acting in a disorderly manner, and using inappropriate language to a superior officer. Major Lekoatsa found him guilty and sentenced him to 80 days in detention.
He was also severely reprimanded. Major Lekoatsa told Alotsi that he had 14 days within which to appeal against the sentence.
Alotsi did not challenge both the conviction and sentence at that time and only did so when Lt Gen Letsoela wrote him a letter saying he should give reasons why he should not be fired.
It was during this time when he revealed that Major Lekoatsa had coerced him to confess even though he was not involved in committing the crimes, apart from disrespecting his superior.
In his letter to Lt Gen Letsoela, Alotsi apologised for being out of the barracks beyond 10pm, saying he did not do it intentionally.
“My intention was still to make it back on time but being human, I got carried away,” he pleaded.
“General Sir,” he continued, “here I give a full account of the truth.”
He told the army boss that there was a fight that broke out at a bar and he had no idea how it started and how it ended.
He said they ran back to the barracks to ask for guns to rescue one Private Ramarou.
“I, Pvt Alotsi, was never given a gun, the guns were given to Private Teolo and Private Khoaisanyane,” he said.
“Commander Lesotho Defence Staff, General Sir, I yet again implore you for mercy as I had been in an unwarranted exchange with Corporal Tlhabi, where it appears that I insulted him,” he pleaded.
“I am not a vulgar person at all. I am a soldier who respects a lot, I follow orders,” he said.
“Corporal Tlhabi was ordering me to not go back with the soldiers to go get Private Ramarou. I indeed stayed behind.”
“I deeply apologise, General, Sir.”
The court found that Lt Gen Letsoela has prerogative to fire any soldier or officer if in his judgment his continued service “is not in the best interests of the Defence Force” or the soldier “has been convicted of a civil or military offence”.
“Depending on the gravity of the offence, (the army commander), even in a situation where a soldier is pardoned, (may) still proceed to discharge him or her,” the court said.
“There is no dispute that the offences committed were serious and obviously offended the standing ethics of the force.”
Alotsi had taken the commander to the High Court saying he was being punished twice. The High Court dismissed his application, leading to this appeal.
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