Critical medicine shortage at Joburg hospital

Statement by Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC:

Many patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital do not receive their medicines and either go without or have to buy from a private pharmacy.


This week I was shocked by the case of Mrs Shamrock Rademeyer, a 65-year-old pensioner, whose family has to spend about R6000 every month on medicine that is perennially out of stock at the hospital.


Her daughter Shamaine gave me the following list of items she buys every month


  • Ezetrol – R600 a month for anti-cholesterol tablets


  • Cardura – R500 blood pressure pills


  • Nuelin – R330 bronchodilator


  • Felodipine – R380 blood pressure pills


  • Pheoplus – R340 for obstructive pulmonary disease


  • Foxair – R500 for asthma pump


  • Protaphane –  6 insulin pens for a month’s use costing about R1200


  • Topalex – R335 to treat nerve damage for a diabetic
  • Irbewin – R200 blood pressure pills
  • Cymgen –  R390 anti-depressant
  • Dazit – R150 anti-histamine for asthma patients
  • Bezalip – R380 for lipids

According to Shamaine, hospital pharmacists tell her that the medicines are unavailable because suppliers have not been paid.

In the case of Ezetrol anti-cholesterol tablets, the government only pays for ten patients at the Lipid Clinic to receive it, so one of these patients has to die before another patient can get it.

Mrs Rademeyer usually gets 4 or 5 prescribed medicines from the hospital, and has to get about 12 others from a private pharmacy.

Other patients who cannot afford to buy medicines have to go without, with severe effects on their health.

According to the third quarterly report of the Gauteng Health Department which covers the October to December 2014 period, only 76% of vital medicines were available at health facilities.

This figure is appallingly low – it means that about one in four essential medicines are not available despite all the promises by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

The excuses for non-availability of medicine are wearing thin. Suppliers must be paid and proper ordering and distribution systems installed.

The present intolerable situation must be sharply improved as soon as possible.