Medicine shortages hit North West due to anti-Supra protests

School children seen on the streets of Mahikeng during a protest demanding the resignation of Supra Mahumapelo.
School children seen on the streets of Mahikeng during a protest demanding the resignation of Supra Mahumapelo.
Image: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Just as citizens take to the streets demanding the resignation of the premier‚ pharmacists in the North West have warned that the protests have led to a shortage of medicine in the province.

In a statement released by the SA Association of Hospital and Institutional Pharmacists (Saahip)‚ its members condemned the effects of the ongoing protest action in the North West.

“The strike has resulted in major disruption of the supply of medicines. It is understood that the grievances of the protesters must be addressed‚ but the action cannot be condoned when the lives‚ health and wellbeing of residents are compromised. Reports that unqualified workers are employed at some medicine-depots are also concerning‚ as this contravenes pharmacy legislation and poses a risk to patients‚” Saahip said on Thursday.

Mahikeng was shut down on April 19 2018 due to heavy protest action. The protest is over a bid to remove Supra Mahumapelo as the North West premier.

The North West province has been engulfed by violent protests in which residents are demanding that Premier Supra Mahumapelo step down. The ANC has already sent a team of its leaders to find a solution in the province.

But pharmacists warned that the situation has to be resolved urgently as it poses a threat to lives.

“Closure of healthcare facilities due to unavailability of medicines and medical supplies from provincial depots can result in devastating consequences for patients. Not only is death a possibility in some cases‚ but patients who have been stabilised on chronic medicines risk having inadequate control of their ongoing medical condition‚ while patients needing medicines for acute conditions face the possibility of not receiving medicines at all.

“Pharmacists have reported that staff who are unable to assist patients are feeling demoralised‚ knowing that those who feel the impact are people who are both poor and helpless. One pharmacist told SAAHIP that it’s psychological torture to send a patient home without anti-retroviral medicine‚” said Saahip.

The organisation’s president Refiloe Mogal said it appreciated the efforts to deal with the situation in the North West.

“We appreciate the reports that the Minister of Health has been engaging with stakeholders to try to find immediate solutions. If medicines and medical supplies cannot be delivered to the depot‚ it is appropriate to negotiate emergency delivery to private sector facilities from which the clinics and hospitals can collect their supplies‚” Mogal said.

She added: “It confirms our belief that a national disaster management plan for the delivery of medicines and medical supplies should be developed‚ so that in emergencies such as this‚ immediate and effective action can take place.”

Meanwhile‚ the Botswana government took to social media to tell its residents not to head to Mahikeng.

“The Ministry of Nationality‚ Immigration and Gender Affairs informs the public that there are protests around Mahikeng Location Municipality. All entry and exit points into Mahikeng are closed from [Thursday] until further notice. There are no taxis and buses going into Mahikeng because the operators have joined the protests.

“Batswana are therefore advised to suspend trips to Mahikeng until the situation calms down‚” the statement reads. 

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