Now people living with HIV are worried that the theft of the ARV medication they rely on will impact on them.
Months after a lay counsellor who used to work for the Department of Health at Kanyamazane Clinic was arrested, two more employees were taken into custody.
A nurse and a pharmacy assistant will now also face charges of stealing ARV medication from the supply store at a government clinic.
Last August Mthobisi Malambe was apprehended at the clinic after security officials linked him to two women who would regularly arrive at the clinic and leave with his bag. It was found that the bag contained anti-retroviral medication.
‘Released on bail’
Malambe appeared in the Kanyamazane Magistrate’s Court, and was released on bail while his case remains under investigation. The Department of Health has since dismissed him.
However, just few months after Malambe’s arrest, a professional nurse and pharmacist assistant have been arrested on suspicion of stealing ARV’s from Kanyamazane Clinic. It is not known for how long the theft has been going on. The two have been released on bail after appearing in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court.
According to Dumisani Malamule, spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Health, the Department is planning to increase security at all its facilities, particularly in the medicine stores. While Malambe was dismissed, the nurse and pharmacy assistance both resigned. However, the department is considering whether to accept the resignations while an internal investigation is ongoing.
Sinenhlanhla Gumende, an HIV positive patient, has asked how the theft of ARV’s in the province is likely to affect patients reliant on the medication.
Sifiso Nkala from public interest law group Section 27, said people were frustrated with and concerned about corruption within the Health Department.
“Their main obligation is to maintain, improve, protect and promote the health of all people. That means the DoH has to treat and prevent diseases to ensure a healthy population. How do they intend to do this with a corrupt workforce?” Nkala asked.
“We applaud the department for taking action against the accused, and we hope this will send a strong message to other facilities and we hope other perpetrators are caught and dealt with accordingly. This cannot be taken lightly as medicine shortages threaten people’s health and lives,” said Belinda Setshogelo of the Treatment Action Campaign in Mpumalanga.
An edited version of this story appeared on Health24.