In February, the Observatório Cidadão para a Saúde (OCS) published a research denouncing the sale of Covid-19 tests in three health units, namely, the Maputo Central Hospital (HCM), the Mavalane General Hospital and the José Macamo General Hospital.
According to our observation, the tests were being sold at an amount ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 meticais (at the current exchange rates, a dollar equals 69.07 meticais), in a very confidential and difficult to detect scheme, as health professionals were involved.
When the findings of our research were made public, the Ministry of Health (MISAU) did not comment. However, among the three health units, one made a few statements about the scheme, in this case, the Maputo Central Hospital.
The management of that health unit refuted the existence of the illegal scheme to sell tests. Then, they promised to investigate, showing, however, a clear tone of disinterest, as if to say: “this does not exist, but let me investigate.”
In the research in question, the OCS found that the illegal sale of tests did not always happen in a clear cut manner. Therefore, health professionals, as they have the privilege of taking their family members for testing, they instead accepted strangers to take their place for testing, in exchange for money.
The other health units remained silent. From February until now, this act of corruption, continues to take place in the health units before the MISAU’s very eyes.
Although the OCS was the first organisation to denounce the scheme, other voices in society have also grown louder, denouncing the fact that the scheme has worsened, with the misappropriation of tests from public hospitals to private clinics.
This perverse system of corruption certainly harms thousands of people without financial means and benefits a group of citizens with an above average income, as well as those who have health insurance – those who have the wherewithal to be tested in private clinics.
On the other hand, this scenario has been generating an illicit fund collection scheme by some health professionals.
To eradicate this corruption scheme, the OCS recommends that MISAU should create an extremely transparent model for the distribution and management of tests in all health units in the country.
The tests that are in the country were acquired through mechanisms created by the government and cooperation partners, assuming that MISAU has the role of regulator in guaranteeing fair and equitable access to the tests.
It is still not known how many tests the health units receive daily, in the same way that the daily capacity of testing that a certain hospital, for example, performs per day is unknown. Sharing this data would be a positive sign for the transparent and equitable distribution of tests across the country.
Hospitals must daily publish the number of tests performed, also indicating the number of unused tests. Health units with the ability to test for Covid-19, in coordination with the central inspection, must create a testing control model for inputs and outputs with a view to detecting misuse.
The sale of tests should not continue under MISAU’s uncaring gaze. The exit of drugs and other inputs from a public health unit to the private sector should not continue along these lines. It is crucial that MISAU begins an investigation with a view to sanctioning professionals involved in the sale of tests to citizens, as well as to private clinics.
By not eradicating illicit testing schemes, MISAU may unwittingly be contributing to the creation of a possible environment conducive to the illegal sale of vaccines from the public to the private sector, when eventually they will be available to the bulk of the population.