NHI: New system lets patients pick up medicine from shops

NHI: New system lets patients pick up medicine from shopsLiving with a chronic condition and being on treatment during COVID19:(File Photo)

Patients in rural KwaZulu-Natal are able to pick up their medicine from a wide range of local pick-up points, in a national experiment aimed at cutting the long queues at hospital pharmacies.

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Being implemented in NHI pilot districts across the country, a new chronic medication system lets some stable patients pick up medication at alternative sites to reduce the burden on clinics
Being implemented in NHI pilot districts across the country, a new chronic medication system lets some stable patients pick up medication at alternative sites to reduce the burden on clinics

The system is for stable patients in the Umzinyathi district who have been on medication – including antiretroviral drugs – for at least six months

Patients can chose to collect their medicine from various private pick-up points, including factories, shops, schools, creches and tribal court offices.

The medicine is dispatched to the local pick-up points by a private courier company, Medipost, which sends patients an SMS when their medicine has been delivered.

“The aim is to improve patients’ access to chronic medication by letting them collect it at accessible pick-up points that stay open longer than normal clinic hours,” says Sineziwe Mazibuko, who is the project’s manager.

“The pick-up points include private doctors, pharmacies, non-governmental organisations and factories with occupational health nurses,” adds the dynamic Mazibuko, who is visibly passionate about the programme.

“We also have community pick-up points that have signed service-level agreements with the district.”

Pick-up points have to be brick buildings with electricity, water and a fridge for storing sensitive medicine. Medipost has assisted some with fridges and security.

The community pick-up points get paid around R7 a patient, so the system is not only saving patients’ time and decongesting hospitals, but also generating income in one of the country’s poorest districts.The total cost is around R30 per patient.

New systems cuts queues

Umzinyathi is one of the country’s 11 National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot districts, and if the decentralized delivery system works here, it could be rolled out in other parts of the country.

“A stable supply of medicine is a non-negotiable part of the NHI,” says Abdus Cassim, who is the district’s NHI co-ordinator.

“Since we have introduced the new delivery model, there has been a marked drop in waiting times in hospital pharmacies,” Cassim tells Health-e News. “In 2012, patients at Newcastle Hospital used to wait an average of 32 minutes for medicine but now they wait for five to seven minutes.”

Umzinyathi district has been working for the past three years to introduce an electronic system to manage medicine stock, and over 80 percent of facilities are now submitting weekly reports on their medicine stocks via a website. District managers can now log into the website at any time to view stocks at the different clinics.

The district has also employed 24 pharmacy assistants – there were none three years ago – to help monitor stock. The assistants, who need a matric with mathematics, have been trained for the past two years by a local non-governmental organisation.

“I love being in Mzinyathi and I am excited about being part of piloting this new system,” says Mazibuko. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story first appeared in the Sunday Tribune newspaper.