Complaints that TB patients were being sent away from the Ngqamakhwe and Butterworth hospitals received some attention in the Legislature emanating for a question for oral reply by Social Development Portfolio Committee member Veliswa Mvenya.

Mvenya insisted that there were incidents of people being sent away despite the MECs reply that he was not aware of any such cases.  Mvenya responded to the House, through the Speaker:  “Since the MEC said he was not informed about what happened at Ngqamakhwe, I am opposed or I disagree with the response that nothing of that nature ever happened at Ngqamakhwe.  A patient from Ntulusi in Nomaheya, was turned back at Ngqamakhwe because there was no medication for TB. She went to Butterworth and was again informed that there was no medication for TB. She then went to a chemist to get some medication. Therefore, Hon. Speaker, I am saying the response to questions (a) and (d) are misleading this House. At no stage would I pose questions to the MEC without being fully informed about them.

The MEC conceded that drug availability was a challenge in terms of having a constant availability. “Interim arrangements have also been made to treat TB patients. All health facilities with adequate supply of drugs that can assist Mnquma and Mbashe municipalities continue sharing or providing drugs for these two sub-districts concerned. Therefore it is not expected that TB patients will not be treated at these hospitals.”

“The problem with regard to the interrupted supply of TB arose as a consequence of the current TB contract RT 78/2009 being awarded late in December 2009 when it was supposed to have kicked off in July of the same year. This resulted in initial teething problems with respect to quantification, as the planning for production could not be aligned with the orders.

“This has resulted in a situation where companies were constantly having backlogs as regards orders on account of the long lead times. For example up to 12 weeks as regards Sisonke which supplies Rifafour and Biotec which supplies Streptomycin.  The situation has since ameliorated and adequate stock levels are currently available at the medical depots. As regard Rifafour, the Mthatha depot currently has 4 474 packs of 56’s and 11 416 packs of 56’s for Rifinah 300/150.

“As regards paediatric TB medicines there have also been some problems, as the sole supplier, Sandoz, ran into problems with the Medicines Control Council and were temporarily stopped from continuing with production. To overcome this, the province had – with the assistance of the national Department of Health – to follow the section 21 route and import these drugs from international sourced. Stocks are currently available in adequate amounts – for example at Mthatha depot 10 212 packs of 100’s Rifinah and 7 549 packs for Rifafour.

“The medicines are available all along, save that because of the challenges stated there have been temporary periods of non-availability of certain items at given times, yes, to the inconvenience of the patients, whilst alternative arrangements had to be made to obtain such items.

“Both Ngqamakhwe and Butterworth hospitals responded officially that there has not been a situation where patients had to be turned away from the hospitals.

The MEC undertook to investigate the complaint of the individual patient in Ntulusi, “In view of the fact that the Hon. member has now given us the specifics.”

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