One of the most concerning findings was the regularity with which medicine stock outs occur at health facilities in the area. The stock outs affect all levels of medication from the very basic treatment such as ointment and paracetamol, to life-saving drugs such as antiretrovirals and diabetes medication.
A diabetes patient told OurHealth how she was turned away when she came to collect her medication and told to come on another date. However, many people in the area live on very small grants and do not have money to travel back and forth to the clinic, and therefore have to go without medication until the following month.
Another major concerning finding is that in some cases, children have coming to the clinics for immunisation have been turned away because of stock outs.
A nurse at one of the clinics (who didn’t want to be named), gave a possible explanation for the regular stock outs. ‘All 12 clinics in the area have to send their medication orders to the Gateway clinic, where it is combined and one large order sent to the medicines depot in Umthatha,’ she said. With this system a delay at one clinic may cause all the other clinics go without medication until they submit their order. Having just one large order for the whole area causes delays in distribution to the individual clinics as well.
The community has voiced their concern and unhappiness with the health services in the region saying that they will not vote in the election.
People’s clinic cards are full of the words ‘OS’, short for ‘stock outs’. ‘The people are concerned – this is not supposed to be happening,’ said a concerned member of the community. ‘They were promised many things when it comes to health, but the department is not delivering. This shortage of drugs is very serious because it can mean the difference between life and death.’
Mtshana Mvlisi is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Lusikisiki in the OR Tambo health district in the Eastern Cape.