Medical staff caught changing medicine expiry dates

Prescribed medication
Prescribed medication

The Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) allegedly discovered Charlotte Maxeke Hospital staff of changing medicine expiration dates to conceal expired drugs. 

Created in 2013, the office inspects clinics and hospitals to ensure that health facilities adhere to health standards. Judged on criteria such as patient safety and leaderships, facilities can be inspected either routinely or in response to complaints.

In the office’s first three years, it has managed to inspect about 40 percent of the country’s health facilities, according to OHSC Acting CEO Bafana Msibi.

According to Msibi, poor health facility management continues to reverberate throughout the health system, leading to poor operational planning, as well as poor management of medicines and waste.

Read: Don't buy expired products, urges consumer watchdog

In 2014/15, the office found that Charlotte Maxeke Hospital staff allegedly manually changing the expiration dates on medicine. In Mpumalanga, expired medicines remained on shelves next to expired medical equipment.

“We found facility managers changing the expiry date of the medicine so that their facilities could pass the inspection,” Msibi said.

The office also uncovered multiple instances around the country where newborn babies shared incubators due to a shortage of equipment. Meanwhile the Northern Cape’s De Aar Hospital got slated for cleanliness and at Pretoria’s Mamelodi Hospital, patients were found sleeping on the floor.

Limpopo and the Eastern Cape received the worst marks from the office while Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal emerged as the best ranked provinces, according to inspections carried out over the last financial year.

Read:  Expired flu drugs     

Head of the University of Stellenbosch’s nursing department, Ethelwynn Stellenberg, is an OHSC board member. Stellenberg expressed concern over the office’s findings.

“It’s concerning that nurses are not upholding the most basic lesson of (nursing) by ensuring that medicine administered to patients is not expired,” said Stellenberg, who noted results from Limpopo’s National Health Insurance pilot district, Vhembe, were particularly worrying.

“For us, the most worrying province is Limpopo province as Vhembe District was rated the lowest when compared to other districts,” she said. “Constitutional rights are being violated. We are not moving forward, but are regressing.”

However, the office’s inspections also highlighted facilities that were going above and beyond for patients, as well as some notorious offenders that had improved.

Read: How your medicine is made

In the Western Cape, the office found that Oudtshoorn Hospital staff had taken initiative and adopted a World Health Organisation surgical safety checklist. In KwaZulu-Natal’s Zululand District, the office found largely clean health facilities with well-maintained grounds and proper medical waste management practices.

The office also commended the Eastern Cape’s Holy Cross Hospital, which had initially received a 43 percent mark upon inspection. The inspection followed multiple civil society complaints about the facility.

“After our first inspection, we consulted with the provincial department of health to address the problems and during the next inspection we noted an improvement at the hospital,” Msibi said.

According to OHSC Board Chairperson Lizo Mazwai, the office is currently in the process of establishing a national ombudsman to handle public complaints. Mazwai stressed that the department will continue fielding public complaints as the ombudsman is established. - Health-e News

Read more:

Our expert on expired medication

Our expert on expired ARV meds

Our expert on pill expiry dates

Image: Prescribed medication from iStock

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