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Medicines stockout crisis in North West

The cash-strapped North West Health Department has said that the lives of chronically ill patients in the province are now threatened due to ongoing workers strikes as medical supplies have been heavily affected.

Stockouts have been a crisis in South Africa for years and the government hasn’t been able to find a permanent solution. The North West Health Department, which was put under administration, has been hit by strikes after the department failed to pay suppliers, causing employees to strike and putting patients lives at risk.

A report in 2013 by Stop Stockouts outlined the crisis in South Africa. According to the report, one in five health facilities in South Africa are affected by stockouts, with over 400 facilities reporting a shortage of ARVs and/or TB medicines, 4% of those facilities coming from North West – the least across all provinces.

With over 300 health facilities across the province, it is expected that HIV and TB patients will be the hardest hit.

Collapsed

The collapsed delivery of chronic medication poses a danger to the management of treatment of chronically ill patients in the province and could result in loss of lives. It’s still unclear when the strike will end and which regions will be mostly affected. But all provincial health facilities are on high alert.

Stop Stockouts, an NGO that monitors medicines shortages, says it has been informed that antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), particularly second-line ARVs which are critical, are running low in the province.

The organisation’s project manager Glenda Muzenda says they’ve also noticed a spike in the number of stockouts reported via their hotline since the industrial action.

The collapsed delivery of chronic medication poses a danger to the management of treatment of chronically ill patients in the province and could result in loss of lives.

“Patients have indicated an increasing problem across the province, and many are being turned away from clinics which have run out of medication or have been given lesser quantities. We have received over 50 reports of stockouts which is really concerning because no patient should be sent away without medicines,” said Muzenda.

In the meanwhile, Muzenda told Health-e News that the National Department of health has assured them that this will be rectified urgently.

“We are urging both the National and Provincial Departments of Health to act swiftly to resolve the strike, as it is now compromising the lives of people who depend on public health services in the North West,” says Muzenda.

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.

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