By Isak Fritz MPL DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Health:
The DA is probing confirmed shortages of ARV’s in the Northern Cape that occurred earlier this year.
A stock out of ARV’s, including Nevirapine Syrup and Combivir tablets, for the period of January to March this year has been verified. HIV confirm tests were also out of stock in the Northern Cape during this period. Kimberley Hospital and Dr Harry Surtie Hospital, as well as the larger Pixley Ka Seme district, which serves as a pilot site for the National Health Insurance plan, were particularly affected.
Delays in delivery of medicines from suppliers have largely been blamed on the tender processes followed by the National Department of Health, with the provincial department having pointed out that tenders should be re-awarded earlier, before the current ones expire, and that tenders must also be awarded on time to avoid account closures.
While we accept that the blame cannot fall solely on the shoulders of the provincial department, this does not absolve the Northern Cape Health Department of its responsibility to provide patients with uninterrupted supplies of essential medicines.
Essential medicines are critical for the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our society. Nevirapine syrup is administered to babies to prevent HIV transmission through breast milk while Combivir tablets are used for the treatment of infections with HIV. Both these medicines are indispensable in the fight against HIV/AIDS and it is therefore vital to avoid interrupted drug supplies, which can lead to drug resistance and treatment failure.
The DA believes that the provincial department urgently needs to take stock of its pharmaceutical responsibilities.
It is unacceptable that procurement processes in provinces are bungled due to substandard management.
The DA-run Western Cape has avoided similar stock outs by keeping buffer stock to ensure zero shortages of medicines. It’s time the Northern Cape emulated this system, as buffer stocks are important to guard against unforeseen events.
The DA has submitted parliamentary questions to Health MEC, Mac Jack, questioning the extent and duration of the ARV out-of-stocks. We also want to know how many people had their treatment cycles interrupted as a result of these stock outs.