Shortage of medicines in Eastern Cape

The health of hundreds of patients living in the Chris Hani District municipal area, Eastern Cape, is being put at risk by a severe shortage of medication, according to a report.

Nurses told The Herald that there was a shortage of medicines.

It's a big crisis and it's frustrating. Some patients have even called the presidential help-line out of desperation, a nurse said.

We don't have blood pressure drugs and if patients don't get them, their hearts enlarge and that can lead to complications and even heart failure. I know patients who are on their deathbeds because of this.

Mismanagement of stock

The health department, however, blamed the nurses for not managing the stock properly.

Several clinics in Queenstown reportedly had medical shortages last month and a visit this week revealed that primary health care in the Emalahleni Local Municipality, which covers Dordrecht, Lady Frere and Indwe, was on the brink of collapse due to serious medicine shortages at some of the clinics.

As a result, about 300 high blood pressure sufferers are at risk of cardiac failure.

Simple medical instruments like urine test strips, needles and strips used to test iron levels in the blood were also not available, The Herald reported.

A government pharmacist in the Emalahleni sub-district, which distributes medicine to 25 clinics, admitted to a shortage of high blood pressure medication, but said in many instances the nurses were to blame.

Workers should be fired

The biggest challenge we face is that the clinics can't handle their drugs properly, he said. They order small amounts of drugs and don't plan for their next order.

Provincial health superintendent General Dr Siva Pillay said in some cases incompetence of clinic managers caused the problems. He said there were also times when some of the medication was not available from the suppliers.

Health Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo told The Herald that records showed that medication was available at the Mthatha depot.

“Those clinic workers should be fired for allowing people to suffer like this. They did not place sufficient orders and it's their duty to do so on time,” he said.

(Sapa, November 2011) 

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