Clinic patients must buy pills: The Herald

Stock-outs see people sent to pharmacies

AS clinics run out of chronic medication due to a switch in suppliers by the national Health Department, nurses are sending patients with government prescriptions to private pharmacies where they must buy their own pills.

“This is totally out of order and [it is] against our policy for any staff members to refer patients to private pharmacies where they will be required to pay,” Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said yesterday.

“Only Health MEC Pumza Dyantyi, or the superintendent-general, Thobile Mbengashe, can close such a free service to our people.

“If we can confirm that patients have been referred to private clinics the appropriate action would have to be taken.

“We appeal to all of our staff members to refrain from sending people to private clinics.”

Kupelo said the department was aware that some pharmaceutical companies had contracts that had expired and that those medicines would not be available. “In those cases we have developed guidelines for nurses on what to prescribe,” he said.

“I want to emphasise that there has been no official directive for patients to be referred to private pharmacies for their medication.”

Several state patients, many of them pensioners, said nurses were sending them with their clinic books to private pharmacies to buy their pills.

Bev McHenry said she went to the clinic on Monday to get her cholesterol pills only to be told that there were none.

The next day, when she phoned to find out, no pills had arrived.

Nokuthula Marau said she was told yesterday they did not have all her pills.

“It was the same story last month,” she said.

“I don’t have the money to buy my pills from the chemist.”

Fikile Boyce, of the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Group, said he was told by managers that some clinics were borrowing drugs from one another.

“During our last meeting with Health MEC Pumza Dyantyi, she said the issue of drug stock-out had been solved.

“We have seen a letter, however, in which pharmacy managers are asking facilities to be patient and try to borrow from each other until the current stock-out situation is solved,” he said.

The DA’s shadow MEC for health, Celeste Barker, said: “We are delighted that the Department of Health has removed its rose-tinted glasses and faced the reality created by this department’s mismanagement and denial.

“We urge the Eastern Cape Health Department to restore public confidence by telling the public what contingency plans are in place to ensure patients will have access to medicine.”