There have been numerous reports in the media about medicine stock-outs at public health facilities which have been framed as a crisis, and indeed, it has been a crisis.
Therefore the department of health is rolling out innovative solutions to overcome the country’s medicine and staff shortage crises and to improve service to frustrated patients who have to stand in long queues just to collect drugs at clinics and hospitals.
Computer software systems with dashboard alerts warning of imminent drug shortages and alternative pick up points that include mobile electronic dispensing units where pharmacists can remotely prescribe drugs to patients are just some of the solutions.
Department of health chief operating officer, Dr Gail Andrews, highlighted the need for countries to strengthen the resilience of medicine supply chains.
“What we need to understand is that challenges relating to medicine availability are experienced across the world, including in many high income countries and it is not only a public sector challenge but impacts the private sector as well,” she said.
Andrews said the minister of health has appointed an advisory team on pharmaceuticals and related commodities security, comprising local and international experts, including World Health Organisation (WHO) members, who have been tasked to understand the factors contributing to medicine availability challenges. This followed the auditor general’s audit of the performance of the management of pharmaceuticals over the years 2011/12 to 2014/15 and his recommendations.
“We know the current medicine supply chain is characterised by outdated, duplicative processes and infrastructure ill equipped to service the growing disease burden and programme requirements. Health facilities are often overcrowded and the supply chain is fragmented at provincial and even district levels,” she said.