These patients have been unable to access their medication with some even turned away and often find themselves at the back of the queue as facilities across South Africa continue take strain during the COVID-19 third wave.

Emanzini explained that the reason for the shortage was due to a change in service providers and the inability to transport drugs. As a result, may patients have not been able to access their treatment in time.

With no system in place, Emanzini has given the new service provider an ultimatum to deliver all supplies within a week.

She also visited at least three health facilities in the province at the end of June as part of her drive to monitor medication stock levels. The MEC also met with representatives from the local Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) branch to discuss their concerns.

“We have noted the concerns and I have given instructions that medicine must be ordered with speed from our Pharmaceutical Depot in Middelburg. By the 2nd of July 2021, all health facilities should have adequate qualities of medicine,” said the MEC, who has visited the Kwanyamazane Community Health Care Centre, the Barbeton Hospital and M’ Africa CHC.

To confirm that all the healthcare facilities had indeed received adequate qualities of medication, Health-e News contacted department spokesman, Dumsani Malamule.

“As per the MEC’s promise to make sure all healthcare facilities receive adequate quality of medication, we can assure you that no patient will be sent away because of a shortage of medication,” said Malamule.

‘Life can return as normal’

Health-e News spoke to Thandiwe Makamana, one of the patients who was turned away from a local clinic in Kwaggafontein which falls under the Thembisilie Hani local municipality.

“I have been scared for my life because the clinic has been sending me away, telling me there is no medicine. I thought I was going to die of coronavirus because they said we are more vulnerable to it. Today I am happy because I have my medication and life can continue as normal,” she said.

Emanzini promised to visit more healthcare facilities to continue her assessment.

The naked truth

The state of Mpumalanga’s public healthcare system has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons of late. A report, published by Ritshidze in May, revealed that close to 93% of facility managers say their facilities don’t have enough staff. Patients also reported having to wait almost 4.5 hours on average before receiving any treatment.

These findings were presented to the department of health at a community accountability meeting in Ermelo.

Ritshidze – a community-led clinic monitoring sytem – who partners with organisations like the TAC, is providing a platform for community members to raise concerns directly to the health department.

“To get more people on treatment, we must fix the problems that mean people avoid starting ARVs or stop taking them altogether. Some people living with HIV in Mpumalanga who are already on multi-month scripts told us how even as clinic visits have become less frequent, it still gives them stress and literal sleepless nights every time they know they have to set foot into the facilities that make them feel worse rather than better,” said Simphiwe Xaba, a Ritshidze Project Officer. – Health-e News