Gauteng hospitals have reported stock outs of essential medicines in recent weeks, including amphotericin B, a life-saving drug for people with AIDS that combats Cryptococcal meningitis.

According to the Mail and Guardian, activists researching the stock outs say that dysfunction and tardiness at the province’s drug depot is to blame.

Between November 13th and December 5th the Stop Stock Outs Project (SSP) heard from five major Gauteng hospitals that stocks of amphotericin B had run out. These were Johannesburg’s Chris Hani Baragwanath, Helen Joseph and Charlotte Maxeke Hospitals; Krugersdorp’s Leratong Hospital and Pretoria’s Dr George Mukari Hospital.

Although stocks at these facilities have since been replenished, there are still complaints of drugs running low and fears that patients will have to be put on sub-optimal treatment.

An SSP investigation has found that requests for new stocks of amphotericin B had not been properly processed at the Gauteng Department of Health’s (GDoH) central depot in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. It went on to confirm that the Central Financial Officer (CFO) had not signed off on the depot’s order for 2,900 amphotericin B tablets – stunting  the procurement process and resulting in the stock outs.

Earlier this month there were reports of surgeries being cancelled at Gauteng hospitals due to a shortage of about 10,000 anaesthetic drug items and pain medication. According to Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu the shortage was due to newly contracted suppliers who were still building up stock and were battling to deliver the large amount of drugs needed by the various hospitals.

However, contradicting reports surfaced saying that hospital suppliers hadn’t been paid for the stock. “She must be honest, the reason why we have not yet delivered is because there’s outstanding payments. I’ve got accounts outstanding for over 150 days,” said one supplier.

On December 9th the GDoH announced that they have put measures in place to address the shortage of medicines in some of the hospitals and clinics in the province. According to the GDoH it receives daily reports and remains in constant liaison with hospitals and clinics to ensure that interventions are made in time to remedy any shortages.

“Currently, Gauteng’s medical depot has a 77% stock level and is monitoring the levels on a daily basis. A daily report is given to the Acting Head of Department, who is in constant liaison with hospitals and clinics,” said the GDoH.

The GDoH went on to say that all the anaesthetic and psychiatric medicines are available and have been distributed to all facilities. “Shortages of Panado and antibiotic tablets have been reduced.”

It added that the fixed dose antiretroviral (ARV) combination is available in sufficient levels. “More deliveries are expected today and will be delivered to Chris Hani Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke Academic hospitals. The shortages were noted when various hospitals complained about medicine shortages,” said the GDoH.

The GDoH said the NDoH issued notices to suppliers advising them of a breach of general conditions of the contract. It said the suppliers were also given seven days to deliver all outstanding orders.

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