Civil society helps resolve Mthatha antiretroviral shortage
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) together with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Rural Health Advocacy Programme (RHAP), have are helping to end the shortage of antiretroviral (ARV) supply at the Mthatha medicine depot in the Eastern Cape (EC).
Last week it was reported that there was a threat to the health of more than 50,000 HIV patients in the Eastern Cape who are at risk of treatment interruption.
The Mthatha medicine depot, which provides ARVs and other essential medicines to about 30 hospitals and about 350 clinics in the Eastern Cape’s rural eastern region, have not been supplying life saving drugs for weeks. Problems at the depot have led to a significant backlog in receiving drugs from suppliers, capturing orders from facilities and packing and delivering drug orders. Many of the province’s nearly 220,000 HIV-positive patients on ARVs depend on supply from the depot to be able to take their medicines.
TAC’s district coordinator Noloyiso Ntamehlo said: “We sat down and came up with some plans to help end the shortage. We already have community workers who will be working throughout December manning a hotline. The hotline is for patients who arrive at their clinic and find out that there is no medication. They can call the number and they will then receive information about when and where the truck transporting medication will be.
“We will also have managers at various clinics that will take their own cars and fetch the medication if need be. We are also monitoring the situation and together with the Eastern Cape Health MEC are getting daily reports from the depot. Radio stations and newspapers are also spreading the word on the crisis as well as the hotline,” said Ntamehlo.
A statement sent out last week on the matter said that on Friday 6 December MSF had sent an emergency team to Mthatha to provide assistance to the medical depot. The team, which is supported by TAC, Section27 and RHAP, had started to map out the scope of the supply crisis, fill critical staffing gaps and planned an urgent response to ensure HIV patients get the drugs they require. Meanwhile, the National and Eastern Cape Departments of Health are working on an emergency plan as well as longer-term solutions to the critical staff and drug supply problems.
Dr Matthew Reid of MSF said, "We are more or less getting information from TAC about patients that are having difficulties. We are assisting in the packing and delivery of the drugs. Together with our team, we get orders from facilities which we process and then pack the drugs into boxes. We then take it to the delivery company who takes it to the necessary facilities. So far R10 million worth of drugs has already been processed. Some of the reasons for the shortages include the poor organisation of stock and clinical forms not being filled out."
Patients on ARVs who stop taking the drugs are at risk of developing resistance. This means the medicines stop working, HIV rebounds in their bodies and they can become ill again.
GroundUp tried in vain to get comment from the Eastern Cape Health Department.