Drug shortage hits hospitals

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By Seleoe Nonyane

Some hospitals and clinics in the country have in recent weeks been experiencing an acute shortage of drugs, forcing patients to buy prescription medications from private pharmacies.

One such health centre is the Maseru Seventh Day Adventist Clinic in Maseru. A nurse clinician at the facility sees patients, writes down a prescription and purchase the drugs at pharmacies.

“The clinic has run out of drugs, so after examining you we give you a prescription so you can go and buy the medication yourself. But only after you have registered at the dispensary for record keeping and data capturing purposes.

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“This data is meant to assist the clinic so it does not run out of medication in future, so it is important that you register your names. We do not know when the situation will go back to norm,” said the nurse clinician who did not want to be named. She added that the problem is not unique to this particular clinic but has affected other hospitals and clinics country wide.

The nurse clinician went on to urge patients to take care of themselves by proper nutrition. drinking lots of water and physical exercising in order to stay safe and healthy.

“We do not know for how long this will go on. So, it is imperative that you take care of yourselves in order to reduce your chances of falling sick,” she said.

The Maseru Seventh Day Adventist clinic is one of many health facilities that are owned by the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) – a non-profit making organisation under the six Christian churches.  

It is a network of church-owned health facilities constituting eight hospitals, four nurse training institutions and 71 health centres, most of which are situated in rural and hard-to-reach areas. They account for about 40 percent health care in all ten districts.

CHAL is a key partner of the government of Lesotho in the health sector. It has been in partnership with the government of Lesotho for over 10 years and it is guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) whereby CHAL provides services to Basotho freely at health centres and at highly subsidized fees at hospitals in return for a subvention.

CHAL advocacy and communications officer Lebohang Liphapang told theReporter that the problem is caused by a delay in the disbursement of the subvention from the ministry of health.

“When the subvention from the ministry of health does not come in on time, then it means that all operations at the facilities will be affected; not just medication but even staff salaries can be affected.

“I want to believe that the problem is not only with the Maseru Seventh Day Adventist clinic but other centres are affected.

“CHAL sends invoices to the ministry on time as per the MOU agreement, with the hope that the subvention will also come back on time,” she said.

Liphapang mentioned that this is not the first time this problem is experienced.

“This problem has been going on for a long time and one can imagine the pain felt by a sick person who go to hospital seeking better health only to go back home with no medication,” she lamented.

She said the problem could only be resolved if the subvention is provided timeously to meet the needs of the clinics and hospitals.

Meanwhile, the ministry of health’s public relations manager, ‘Mamolise Falatsa, confirmed that the ministry is in partnership with CHAL and it provides M90million subvention each quarter to CHAL.

However, due to liquidity issues they were advised to split the M90million in three portions.

“We do admit that there was a delay but, it was not intentional. It was on Tuesday this week when we were informed that the Central Bank of Lesotho has been instructed to process the subvention fund to the CHAL account.

“So we expect that anytime from now the money will reflect in their account,” she said.

She mentioned that the ministry had proposed to procure medication on behalf of CHAL, but the organisation turned down the proposal.

 “Had they agreed to this proposal this problem would not persist because it is unlikely for government health centres to run out of drugs,” Falatsa remarked.