Johannesburg - Long queues at public hospitals in and around Alexandra will be a thing of the past for chronically-ill patients, thanks to the Gauteng Department of Health's launch of an ATM pharmacy.
The department has partnered with non-profit organisation Right to Care to transform the dispensing of medicines through the first ever ATM pharmacy.
The pharmacy distributes medication to patients within three minutes.
It has already processed more than 8 000 dispensary prescriptions for 4 000 patients and 18 000 medications have been processed for patients suffering from HIV/Aids, diabetes, tuberculosis, hypertension and asthma, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa said.
"This is a world-class system, no less than any we have seen in the world. It's an example of what we can do in the future for our patients," she said.
Ramokgopa said the department brought in the new digital system to benefit patients.
"This pharmacy will assist with congestion at public hospitals," she added.
She said waiting times would be cut to less than half the time patients previously spent. Usually patients had to fork out more than R150 for transport costs and take leave from work.
"This technology will also assist in achieving targets of reaching the missing 2 million patients and adherence for those with chronic illnesses."
A pharmacist and an assistant will be available for patients round the clock at facilities and e-counselling will be made available for those who need it.
"This works. We have proved it and patients have told me that they are happy with the system."
One patient, 45-year-old Refilwe Tau, spoke to News24 and said she was happy with the system.
Tau, who said she was forced to wait in long queues for her diabetes medication at a clinic in Alexandra, said she found that the ePhamarcy system was easy.
"It's easy for me to go to the ATM and get my medication. I was reluctant at first when I heard about it, but it has made my life much easier and the technology is simple enough. It's like withdrawing money from Capitec," she told News24.
Tau, a grandmother of two, who lives in Alexandra, is unemployed. In the past, she spent R50 on transport money to go to the clinic for her medication.
"Now I spend half of that and sometimes I walk to the pharmacy and I save. It has changed everything for me."