While the Department of Health recently attributed the shortage of drugs to a global problem, according to a second annual report on stockouts by advocacy organisations the problems are at local and provincial level.
Hearing the devastating words “sorry, it’s out of stock” has made many patients and rural clinicians feel helpless and angry, according to Dr Karl le Roux of the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (Rudasa).
This situation at times signals death for the people we serve, he added.
“It’s hard to describe the helplessness and anger one feels when cheap, yet important, medications such as antihypertensives, anti-epileptics, ARVs, antibiotics and even simple analgesics are not available,” said Le Roux.
“When medication is not available, it means trained health professionals are practising without some of the most important tools at their disposal.
“And medicine stockouts are worse in rural areas where pharmacists and pharmacy assistants are scarce and the supply chain is long and weak.”
The report, compiled by Rudasa, Doctors Without Borders, Section 27, the Treatment Action Campaign, the Rural Health Advocacy Project and the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, has highlighted a wide range of medicine stockouts, the length of stockouts and the impact this has on patients.
“Analysis of root causes and identification of solutions are needed at all levels of the supply chain, from facilities, to district teams, to provincial and national level,” according to the report.
“Urgent action is needed in areas most severely affected. Improved visibility of medicines at facility level is required. It is critical to assess and identify what factors contribute to and prevent stockouts in different areas.”
There is also a need for trained personnel, district support for ordering and forecasting, on-time payment of manufacturers and accountable and responsive facility, district and provincial managers.