KZN hospitals are running dry

2015-06-01 09:14


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Pietermaritzburg - As reports of shortages of medication in hospitals and clinics around the province continue to emerge, plans to remedy the situation are unclear.

With depleted stocks of ampicillin and no stock of penicillin, some hospitals around KwaZulu-Natal allegedly have little or no supply of morphine and pethidine, both strong painkillers.

DA MPL Dr Imran Keeka said he visited the Ladysmith Hospital on Tuesday and was “shocked” to see patients in agony as the hospital did not have stock of morphine and pethidine.

“I have just come from Ladysmith Hospital and their drug hall is virtually empty,” he said.

“We want answers and this is not the first time the ball has been passed to someone else when there is a crisis.”

Keeka said he had been advised by doctors in KZN’s Illembe district that they are fast running out of essential painkillers despite having made an urgent appeal to KZN’s Health department for supplies to be delivered.

“According to our sources, the shortages at district hospitals have forced doctors to give medication to some patients, leaving others to suffer in agony. Paracetamol — a very basic painkiller — is also in short supply.”

A Pietermaritzburg nurse, who would not be named, said the clinic in which she worked had been out of paracetomal since early April.

A KwaZulu-Natal doctor said there were was a list of medication that was out of stock in hospitals he had visited across KZN including morphine, liquid AZT (ARV) and iron tablets for women who were pregnant and anaemic.

“Morphine (used for severe pain) is in short supply and surgeries suffer because of this.”

He added that pregnant women in need of iron tablets were often turned away at hospitals and clinics because there was no stock.

National Health Department spokesperson Joe Maila said he was unaware of depleted supplies of ampicillin, and hospitals running out of pain medication.

He said nationally, hospitals were not without pain medication. “In respect to the monitoring of stock, I must put it on record that we are even piloting a smartphone monitoring system that monitors stock levels at facility level and feeds us at a national level.”

The national and provincial Health departments did not respond to queries about whether there was a contingency plan in place to combat the penicillin shortage.

Keeka said there are various solutions to the medication shortage that he had pitched to the department and that seemed to be working in parts of the Western Cape.

“We need to stockpile medication, but in the meantime, I can recommend that smaller packages of medication be handed out at clinics and hospitals. I suggest contract buying, and involving the private sector. We can buy from the private sector.

“Ongoing drug shortages are ultimately the result of a severe lack of leadership and all responsibility for death, disability and suffering lies squarely at the door of KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo and his department.

“The DA expects the MEC to intervene without any further delay. He must step up and take control, or leave if he is not prepared to dismiss incompetent staff whose lack of accountability is causing ongoing suffering,” said Keeka.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  health

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