“I recall getting the email that I’d be starting a brand-new job in the health supply chain’s technology sector. I was both nervous and eager about the new journey,’ says Luckson Sichamba, project manager for the Electronic Supply Chain Management Information System (eSCMIS) project, Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ) team.
“The future is technology,” Luckson says, “and nothing has shown us more than the COVID-19 pandemic. I had worked with CHAZ for 6 years before, and then for Chemonics for 4 years. Work had basically become routine, so despite the nerves, I had to start in a whole new supply chain arena, I boldly welcomed the opportunity to join the eSCMIS project.”
CHAZ has been a national team member tasked with analyzing the need for an automated system in the supply chain since the electronic logistics management information system (eLMIS). Many Zambians have limited access to high-quality, low-cost health care. Zambia has made significant progress in overcoming these challenges and expanding health care coverage by building relationships between the public and private sectors. CHAZ supports a significant number of private health facilities across the country and provides more than 50% of formal health care in rural areas and about 35% of health care nationwide.
CHAZ comprises more than 100 health care facilities (hospitals, clinics, and community-based organizations), the vast majority of which are rural. Over 90% of these facilities already have eLMIS Facility Edition (FE) deployed and are covered by the eLMIS Central Edition. Due to factors such as intermittent power supply, a lack of internet, and difficult routes to and from these facilities, the rural areas that CHAZ serves are difficult to reach. Luckson recalls how difficult it was for CHAZ-supported facilities to submit reports to reorder medical commodities. “The eLMIS FE was what I would call a magic bullet,” says Luckson, “because with the click of a button, the report is sent into our central warehouse, and we can plan distribution in good time.”
“I’ve been working with the eLMIS since it was implemented at our hospital in 2019. After you complete your dispensation, physical count, and balance, the report is automatically generated; this is a far cry from the report and requisition forms we used to fill out manually. I use the system daily, making my job so much easier.”
-Theresa Musa Hassab, a pharmacist at the CHAZ-supported Coptic Hospital in Lusaka
Private facilities such as the Coptic Hospital in Lusaka can provide public services because of the support provided by CHAZ and other public sector stakeholders. The US Agency for International Development and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief called for a partnership between local stakeholders in implementing the eLMIS to ensure in-country management, ownership, and sustainability.
“I rarely have to make emergency orders because we are always adequately stocked. Once we send our reports to CHAZ, the order is processed within that same month.”
-James Kunda Bwalya, a pharmacist at the CHAZ-supported Our Lady’s Hospice in Lusaka
The consortium, comprising JSH, JSI, and CHAZ, was formed not only to advance the eLMIS to a next-generation supply chain system but also to establish a skills transfer program. The multi-sectoral collaboration lays the foundations for long-term sustainability while also opening channels for the public and private sectors to collaborate to make high-quality health products available throughout the country. So far, 10 CHAZ personnel have been embedded in the project’s support, implementation, administration, and software development teams.
“I had no idea I could be so tech-savvy,” Luckson says. “Now I can even troubleshoot and run pieces of code needed during the eLMIS implementation.” “The consortium has moved us from an eLMIS user’s perspective to a more behind-the-scenes understanding. We are constantly learning from our colleagues who have been implementing the eLMIS for years, and we, in turn, transfer these skills to more CHAZ supply chain staff through our technical meetings.”
To build a more resilient and sustainable health supply chain, the eSCMIS project collaborates with all stakeholders, including the public and private sectors and health care consumers. The project’s transition and capacity-building plan ensure that national stakeholders can maintain the eLMIS long after the project ends. Local NGOs such as CHAZ, which are already heavily involved in supporting the public health supply chain and health service delivery, have backed eLMIS operations and management because it aligns with their organizational mandates.