MEC must respond to hospital drug shortage claims

By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

THE DA in KwaZulu-Natal calls on provincial Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, to urgently respond to claims that hospitals and clinics do not have stock of medication ranging from life-saving ARVS’s to paracetamol.

The MEC is well aware of this problem – it certainly is not new.  Yet he has failed to deal with it.

During a provincial health portfolio committee held at the beginning of the year, the DA highlighted the issue.  In particular we raised the issue of ARV and anaesthetic medication shortages after numerous complaints from both professional medical sources and members of the public.

At the time the DA had also just been informed that Kind Edward hospital specialists were seriously considering cancelling or postponing surgical procedures due to the chronic shortage and in some cases complete lack of Anaesthetic drugs.  We were advised that emergency stock was already being used.

I also told MEC that the DA had received reports of shortages of certain analgesic drugs – including paracetamol – in other healthcare facilities across the province.

In spite of these many warnings, nothing has happened with the MEC simply blaming the National Health department procurement process which, in the meantime, has refuted his claims.

This ‘blame game’ cannot be allowed to continue at the expense of those who need specific medication.

While the DA welcomes the fact that the KZN Health department is paying suppliers on time, we cannot condone that there is simply no plan in place when medicine shortages are looming.

In the DA-led Western Cape there is a programme for such instances which includes;

  • Allocating any available stock as soon as it is received to health facilities
  • Redistribution from facilities with stockpiles to others
  • Repacking certain medicines into smaller patient-ready pack sizes so that they can be distributed more widely
  • Sourcing medicine off-contract and engaging with suppliers to expedite delivery.  This includes sourcing from the private sector in urgent situations
  • Providing guidelines on the safe use of alternative medications.

Other options include using provincial contracts to ensure a reliable supply of essential medication and buying out from the private sector – a matter which is being given serious consideration at present.

The MEC is ultimately responsible for the delivery of quality health care to state reliant patients in the province.  The DA expects him to ensure that a proper plan is put into place to deal with ongoing delays in medication supplies.