clinics 'run out of ARVS'

STATE hospitals and clinics in KwaZulu-Natal have "run out" of anti-retroviral drugs.

STATE hospitals and clinics in KwaZulu-Natal have "run out" of anti-retroviral drugs.

This shocking revelation from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) also indicated that five people on the ARV waiting list in the Umgungundlovu district who were "waiting" to get on to government's ARV programme have now died.

"They have been waiting to receive their medication for five months," said TAC spokesperson Richard Shandu.

"Our field workers have indicated there are huge problems with the supply, distribution and availability of the medication.

"We think it is dangerous for patients to be put on the programme then find that there are no drugs. This shortens the life span," Shandu said.

He said hospitals also faced a lack of experienced health staff, poor resources and in some instances several pharmacists had left.

"We are calling for a meeting with health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo to raise our concerns."

Using the provincial health department's 2008/9 statistics, TAC said the province had 225863 people on their ARV roll-out. About 1541 people were on the waiting list.

"However, we think these figures are conservative. We are receiving reports of thousands of people being infected and in need of ARVs from all over the province."

Shandu's revelation comes amid a public outcry that people living with HIV and Aids are already being turned away from Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg - reportedly because officials do not want to work irregular hours.

But other sources indicate that it is more a case of the hospital battling to cope with the increasing numbers of patients enrolled for the ARV programme.

Edendale Hospital alone has 10985 patients enrolled in the programme - far above its capacity to cater for 8500 patients on the ARV programme by 2010.

A highly placed official in the health department told Sowetan:"The ARV programme is being poorly administered at hospitals.It is not the fault of workers - the authorities in the health department do not want to fill vacant posts."

DA leader John Steenhuisen has called for the urgent "reprioritisation" of funds within the department.

Dhlomo said: "No patient has ever been turned away (from Edendale) nor has the programme been suspended.

"We must also correct the notion that we have an inadequate supply of ARVs, as inferred by the DA."