The Eastern Cape Department of Health (EC DoH) is literally risking the lives of at least 40,000 HIV patients in the eastern part of the Eastern Cape by not ensuring that the Mthatha Pharmaceutical Depot is sufficiently stocked with ARV and other essential medication. Immediate corrective measures need to be taken before it’s too late.

The EC DoH must not try to fool itself and the public by blaming the current crisis at the Mthatha depot on the previous truck driver’s strike and the more recent strike by the employees of the depot itself. Both of those strikes have been over long enough for medical stocks to have been replenished completely. That is if the Department actually has the will to do so.

If HIV patients do not receive and take their ARV medication on a consistent basis, they run the very real and life threatening risk of growing a resistance to the treatment. If this is not caught soon enough and treated accordingly, death is a very real possibility.

The crisis at the depot affects patients across the board, various chronic medications are essential to many and even the simplest antibiotics are necessary to save lives. Hospitals are extremely limited in the surgical procedures they can perform and how well they can treat patients without proper supplies and medication. Obviously when patients suffer and die because this, the department will try to blame the doctors and nurses as they did in the past.

The MEC of Health, Sicelo Gqobana, must intervene immediately to resolve the issue. Stock can be delivered overnight, why should we be waiting for some “big announcement” as said by spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo? (subs: Daily Dispatch, Dec 4, “Depot runs out of crucial medication). People are dying, yet the governing party does not seem to care one bit.