News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

‘Technical glitch’ sees clinics running out of chronic medication.


Some chronically ill patients in the Western Cape have had to go for days without taking their prescribed medication at some state hospitals as a new contractor appointed to provide prepackaged chronic medication has been experiencing “technical glitches”.

At the beginning of the month the Western Cape Provincial Department of Health appointed UTi Pharma to take over the management of the Chronic Dispensing Unit (CDU) from Institutional Pharmacy Management (IPM) whose five year contract had come to an end.

On Friday, two weeks later, Western Cape Minister of Health Theuns Botha said there had been “some operational problems” in transferring the details of about 200 000 patients from the old CDU system to the new operator which resulted in problems in the dispensing of chronic medication to patients.

However, he said on Friday that the situation had just been resolved.

But the technical glitches created a “huge” backlog in the dispensing of chronic medication at some state hospitals.

At Retreat Community Hospital, a senior health official who spoke on condition of anonymity said because UTi Pharma was unable to provide pre-packaged chronic medication, they had a week-long backlog.

“We have asked patients who have a supply of medicines to come back next week. Those (patients) who have nothing, we are trying to assist them,” he said.

He said because the work had to be done manually, a patient would be seen by a doctor and told to come the next day to get medication

He said the majority of their patients who had been inconvenienced were suffering from diabetes and hypertension but the situation was normal for patients suffering from Tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.

Western Cape Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) field facilitator  Neliswa Mkwai said that at a partnership meeting with fellow stakeholders such as the Simelela Aids Forum on Wednesday April 11, some patients in attendance had complained that they had been unable to get their chronic mediation for three days.

Some city run clinics depending on the CDU were also affected, said a senior city health official who did not want to be named because only politicians serving in mayoral committee positions are authorised to speak to the media.

Botha said the issues had not been life threatening.

“There is an overlap. We reverted to dispensing the medication manually which created discomfort to our patients. There was a delay. Patients had to wait for three days to get medication. We apologise for the inconvenience,” he said. — Peter Luhanga

Tags: Chronic Dispensing Unit (CDU), diabetes, hypertension, Institutional Pharmacy Management (IPM), Neliswa Mkwai, Retreat Community Hospital, Simelela Aids Forum, Theuns Botha, UTi Pharma, Western Cape Provincial Department of Health, Western Cape Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)

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