Shutting down of the Mthatha pharmaceutical depot will cost lives

John Cupido MPL

Health, Economic Affairs, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature

The Eastern Cape Department of Health’s (EC DOH) decision to shut down the pharmaceutical depot in Mthatha will create a substantial delay in the supply of critical and lifesaving medication to the hospitals and clinics of the former Transkei area where the rural communities and the poorest of the poor need it most. This decision will cost lives.

It has come to the attention of the Democratic Alliance (DA) that in an urgent meeting held by the EC DOH on the 12th September 2013, the closure of the Mthatha Pharmaceutical Depot was decided.

If this is true, it will have severe ramifications for the supply of critical medication to the hospitals and clinics in the eastern part of the Eastern Cape.

The MEC of Health, Sicelo Gqobana, and the department have been aware of the problems facing the Mthatha depot for a couple of years now, yet very minimal to nothing has been done to correct the staffing, administration and leadership issues. Now to hide their failure to act, they simply decide to shut down one of the province’s two pharmaceutical depots.

This decision will mean the Port Elizabeth Pharmaceutical Depot will be the only functional depot in the Eastern Cape. As it is, the Port Elizabeth Pharmaceutical Depot does not have the capacity in qualified pharmacists and pharmaceutical assistants to properly dispense medication to the hospitals and clinics on the western side of the province, yet now it is expected to service the eastern side too.

Hospitals that are serviced by the Mthatha depot are known to be severely deficient in pharmaceutical staff, are now expected to source medication directly from suppliers. This is a recipe for chaos. Should this depot close then delivery to a majority of hospitals and clinics in the Eastern Cape will become less efficient and possibly even halted.

The department could have avoided this whole affair by fixing the small issues that arose at the depot during the past few years. This crisis could easily have been avoided.

I have written to the MEC of Health to ascertain exactly what the reasoning was to do so and what the department’s future plans are for the dispensing and dispatching of medication to hospitals and clinics. I have also submitted Parliamentary question to the same effect.

The DA strongly believes in bringing services to all people of the Eastern Cape. If this depot closes, then services are being taken away from those who need them most, the poor, the rural based and the disadvantaged. Healthcare is a critical issue in the Eastern Cape that needs full-on attention and monitoring.