It is estimated that the local suppliers are owed money to the tune of $19 million.
The revelation will send shock waves to people throughout the country as public hospitals serve millions.
Based on a binding agreement between the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of health, the central medical stores is supposed to buy 50% of its drugs locally as part of the Buy Malawi Strategy currently being implemented by government.
According to Chokani Mhango, a convener for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Malawi, the debt has put its members in an awkward situation as they are failing to import materials to be used in the production of their products.
Mhango adds that if the situation persists, they may be forced to cut supply to hospitals through Central Medical Stores and that over 5,000 people will have to be laid off in the process.
“If we don’t supply, hospitals will run out of drugs which in turn will lead to public outcry to say we have no drugs just like it happened in the past,” Mhango said.
However Chief Executive Officer for the Central Medical Stores, Feston Kaupa admits that the situation is dire and that they are working on several options to ensure that the situation is normalised.
Kaupa is of the view that government through treasury needs to separate logistics from the initial drug budget as more money is used for transportation.
He blames the system for the failure to pay in time as treasury has resorted to issue payments quarterly abandoning the old payment system.
Meanwhile, chairperson of the Parliamentary Health Committee, Juliana Lunguzi describes the situation as worrisome because hospitals in the country cannot afford to run without essential drugs.
Lunguzi reveals that her committee will soon engage stakeholders in the sector to ensure that the issue is ironed out and that suppliers are paid in time.
With such revelations, there is need for government to act swiftly to ensure that suppliers are paid in time so that people in public hospitals are not affected by the threat of cutting supply.