Health staff fingered

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Certain health workers at Umlazi's Prince Mshiyeni hospital are allegedly stealing antiretrovirals and selling them to drug users who mix them with dagga.

Youths allegedly buy the drug Stocrine at R15 for half a tablet.

Certain staffers allegedly conduct a lucrative business involving the services of taxi drivers and patients.

Substance abuse expert and HIV-Aids doctor Anwar Jeewa, director of the Westville's Minds Alive Rehabilitation Centre, said: "There is an increase in the use of Stocrine with dagga because the ARV drug is so freely available."

"This is a problem and we have to do something about it. We know that youths are contacting staff at other hospitals in the region because township drug dealers can't meet the demand."

But Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said no hospital management had reported the abuse or theft of the drug Stocrine.

"The matter will be investigated and we will identify all the culprits in order to take action against them," Mbangwa said.

He said such practices put a huge strain on ARV programme.

"If the programme is exploited we will have a shortage and backlog of those who need ARVs," said Mbangwa.

"All medication is kept in the hospital pharmacy and only certain levels of nurses have access to the pharmacy.

"If nurses take the drugs and do not give it to patients we will be unware of it.

Jeewa warned: "This concoction is very dangerous and can eventually kill. The drug mixture breaks down the immune system and reduces the resistance level of the body.

"Eventually the body has no immunity and is left vulnerable to other diseases. Even if you are HIV positive the drugs cannot help you.

"On top of that the more immune the body becomes to the drugs, the harder it is to fight off communicable diseases such as TB."

Jeewa said the drug mixture also fundamentally changes a person's behaviour.

"It makes one doubly aggressive. The thing to worry about is that a person hooked on this will do anything to get the drugs.

"Some will steal, injure and even commit other crimes to get the drug." See page 15