Jabu Mahlangu, a Daveyton resident, is one of the patients who has been affected by the medicines shortages the province is currently facing. On 7 July Mahlangu went to get her HIV treatment at Daveyton Clinic but she did not get it. Mahlangu was supposed to collect FDC and Citalopram but nurses told her they were facing shortages and didn’t know when the medication would be available.

“I had to borrow some so that I can at least have a replacement  for two month. On 6 August I went back to my clinic and they gave me only one packet of citalopram while I was supposed to get two,” Mahlangu  tells Health-e News, adds that she only received seven days supply of the FDC. When she went back a week later, she received one container instead of two.

A national issue

Mahlangu’s story is not unique. All over the country, the Stop Stockouts Project (SSP) received reports of ARVs stockouts and shortages. In Gauteng alone, the number of ARV stockouts has doubled, with and that  both TEE and TLD treatment combinations showing similar number of stockouts.  

“The project has received reports of both shortages and stockouts from Gauteng especially in the Ekurhuleni district where some patients were give 14-day treatment while others were referred to other facilities meaning they left their nearest clinic with no medication,” says Ruth Dube of SSP.

The SSP is working with the Treatment Action Campaign to advocate for chronic patients to receive four to six months’ supply to minimise their exposure to Covid-19 in public spaces such as clinics. 

Effects of lockdown

 There might be a little impact caused by lockdown but the problem of shortages started way before lockdown,” says Dube.

During the hard lockdown a few stockouts were reported since few people were visiting the health facilities. As soon as the lockdown eased there was an almost 50% increase in number of cases reported nationally for essential medicines.

To decrease the shortages of medicines in facilities, SSP proposes better monitoring and advanced warning facilities, with stockpiling of essential medicines before stocks are depleted.

Government’s response

The Gauteng Department of Health say they have put measures in place to mitigate the shortages of medication in the public health facilities across the province. In a statement the department said, they will buy out against contracted suppliers, request suppliers not previously contracted to manufacture some products, and penalise late deliveries.

The department blamed lockdown regulations for the shortages. “Manufacturers are not allowed to operate at full capacity in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Suppliers are supplying but in limited quantities,” says Kwara Kekana, the spokesperson of Gauteng Provincial Department of Health. Countries are also stockpiling medication due to Covid-19, adds Kekana.