The South African Association of Hospital and Institutional Pharmacists (SAAHIP) and its members have expressed strong condemnation of the effects of the ongoing protest action in the North West province. The strike has resulted in major disruption of the supply of medicines. It is understood that the grievances of the protesters must be addressed, but the action cannot be condoned when the lives, health and wellbeing of residents are compromised.
Reports that unqualified workers are employed at some medicine-depots are also concerning, as this contravenes pharmacy legislation and poses a risk to patients.
Closure of healthcare facilities due to unavailability of medicines and medical supplies from provincial depots can result in devastating consequences for patients. Not only is death a possibility in some cases, but patients who have been stabilised on chronic medicines risk having inadequate control of their ongoing medical condition, while patients needing medicines for acute conditions face the possibility of not receiving medicines at all.
Pharmacists have reported that staff who are unable to assist patients are feeling demoralised, knowing that those who feel the impact are people who are both poor and helpless. One pharmacist told SAAHIP that it’s psychological torture to send a patient home without anti-retroviral medicine.
The Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa joins with its hospital sector, SAAHIP, in expressions of support for both patients and pharmacists who have been placed in this untenable situation.
“We appreciate the reports that the Minister of Health has been engaging with stakeholders to try to find immediate solutions,” says Refiloe Mogale, president of SAAHIP. “If medicines and medical supplies cannot be delivered to the depot, it is appropriate to negotiate emergency delivery to private sector facilities from which the clinics and hospitals can collect their supplies.”
Concern has been expressed however that the action may be too late to implement smoothly at this stage.
“It confirms our belief that a national disaster management plan for the delivery of medicines and medical supplies should be developed, so that in emergencies such as this, immediate and effective action can take place,” she concluded.