Western Cape's high-tech chronic medication system takes efficiency to new heights

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The Chronic Dispensary Unit promotes convenient access to life-saving chronic medication.
The Chronic Dispensary Unit promotes convenient access to life-saving chronic medication.

“The benefit for me in collecting the medication here is that most of the medication comes from Red Cross Hospital, which they order, and once it arrives I can collect it immediately,” says Wilandrey Williams, mother of patient, Wayde, about the new cutting-edge technology, the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Since December 2005, chronic patient medication parcels have been delivered to Department facilities and clinics or alternate collection sites. Now, instead of queuing for their medicines at these venues, patients are able to conveniently collect their medicine parcels, which are specially pre-packaged and dispensed at the Chronic Dispensary Unit (CDU) for every individual, said Western Cape Minister of Health Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.

Technologically advanced facility

The CDU is situated at the Western Cape Government Health (WCGH) premises in Parow, Cape Town, and offers greatly enhanced efficiency in chronic medicine supply. There is a contract between the WCGH and Medipost Pharmacy, and the CDU is equipped with an automated dispensing, sorting and parcel assembly line for chronic medication.

The technologically advanced facility dispenses almost 400 000 parcels for patients across the province each month, and has additional capacity to service even more patients if required.

Apart from providing an efficient service for patients receiving their chronic medication parcels, WCGH Head of Department Dr Beth Engelbrecht, who recently conducted an oversight visit to the facility, said the effectiveness of the CDU also assists with freeing up capacity in their walk-in pharmacies at hospitals and clinics. This makes things a lot easier for individuals who require acute medicines, or who may need face-to-face consultations with pharmacists.

“The reduced waiting times and enhanced operational efficiencies that highly innovative systems such as this are able to achieve, contribute to the quality of care of individual patients, as well as extending access to more people,” she said.       

Staff training, environmental sustainability and safety measures

The CDU directly employs 100 people. The majority were recruited from the Parow Industria and surrounding areas, and of these staff members, a number have been enrolled with the Medi Training Academy where they are studying to become Basic and Post-Basic Pharmacist Assistants.

The training initiative aims to address a shortage of skill sets in healthcare, both nationally and within the province.

The CDU has also been designed with environmental sustainability in mind – the site runs exclusively on borehole water, which is filtered and treated to well within the standards for potable water. A number of power-efficient features are also included in the design of the plant, such as a highly efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system and a fully insulated building for temperature regulation.

Furthermore, important safety measures include:

  • Pharmacists conducting "blind checks"
  • A software programme whereby the original prescription is compared to the one captured on the system
  • Strict patient confidentiality maintained to protect the privacy of individuals making use of the service

Dr Mbombo says that the CDU is just one of the creative partnerships that are driving innovation in the service of person-centred healthcare within the province.

“It is most encouraging to see the private and public sectors working together effectively and harnessing technology to make healthcare more accessible and effective for the people we serve,” she said.

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Infographic: Supplied

Image: iStock

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