Gauteng still running short of medicine

Gauteng hospitals and clinics are still not receiving all vital and essential medicines, with a particular problem in the East Rand because of space problems in the regional distribution depot.

According to a presentation by the Gauteng Health Department to the Health Committee of the Gauteng Legislature last week Friday, there was a 98.13% availability of essential medicines at health facilities from April 2016 to March this year.

Vital medicines were 98.56% available for this period, which was also below the target of 99% availability.

The real target should be closer to 100% as even a 1% shortage means thousands of patients are not receiving their correct medicine.

The department blames “poor supplier performance, with non-adherence to contractual lead-time, as well as erratic ordering by institutions”.

Pharmaceutical companies were fined a total of R5.6 million for buy-out penalties when alternative suppliers had to be used.

I welcome the tougher approach to non-performing drug suppliers, but poor distribution and ordering is a major problem for medicine shortages in certain areas of Gauteng.

Distribution of essential medicines by the provincial department is worst on the East Rand, where availability at clinics varied from 89% to 94% last year.

In the Tshwane area, medicine availability at clinics was also low, ranging from 93% to 97%.

Availability was better in the Johannesburg, West Rand and Sedibeng regions where it ranged from 95% to 100%.

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said that the problem in the East Rand was that the medical depot at Nigel was too small to supply the 93 clinics, as well as old age homes and some NGOs in the area.

This problem is eased by weekly deliveries to the depot and also moving the supply of ARVs and TB medicine to a depot in Germiston, but the MEC conceded that this was not enough to get full availability in Ekurhuleni.

It is unacceptable that there are gaps in medicine supply and delivery in Gauteng state hospitals and clinics.

There should be more use of direct supply from companies to health facilities instead of reliance on inefficient regional depots.

The department needs to do everything necessary to ensure full availability of medicines in Gauteng.