Friday, March 1, 2024

Patients stare death in the eye amid drug shortages

Cancer patients and other chronic pain sufferers are in a period of high stress as hospitals and clinics run out stocks of essential medications.

This is according to a document that was prepared by the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) in response to Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti’s statement in the state of drugs and medical supplies in the country.

The Union’s President Peter Baleseng said it must “Be noted that the issue of drug and medicine shortage has been in existence for so many years and of recent years it has escalated to a level of being termed disaster.”

He said; “Just to give an example the state of Princess Marina Hospital: Oncology ward nurses are found helpless because there are no drugs at all.” 

Baleseng said the 44% that Dikoloti referred to renders “the situation less serious to moderate.” BONU said it is worried about the dire or embarrassing situation where nurses have been watching helplessly deteriorating patients in the absence of cancer and other chronic illness drugs and medications.

This raises more questions than answers, BONU said.

“Health care workers especially nurses feel the brunt more than anyone else because in all levels of the health care system, the community expects to get full health care services from nurses especially drugs,” the union said. It noted that when there are no drugs in facilities nurses are often held accountable and liable “to this shortage by the community and in some instances abused.”

“Despite that nurses continue to work and deliver care under these horrendous conditions because they too nurses are part of the community and also need these medications and drugs,” the union said. 

Baleseng said; “The Honourable minister keeps on saying let’s all have hope, but we must ask ourselves how long can we hold on, lives are being lost and the interventions mentioned by the Hon Minister are nowhere near solving this dire situation.”

He said non-communicable diseases such as cancer are on the rise and we had expected the minister to try to address “shortage of pain medications which is normally used in palliative care but it’s not coming up well.”

He added that; “This is an important program because it really helps cancer patients as they undergo very difficult and painful moments of their lives. When we talk of lives, we should never mention the word expensive because there is nothing more expensive than health or life.” 

He said the dates of when to expect the pharmaceutical supplies is set for December 2022, in the meantime Batswana “will be feeling the horror that’s not just a talk but the truth.”

BONU said it owes it to the nation of Botswana and nurses, “hence we need authorities to account and walk the talk.”

“The reasons advanced in the minister response are noted but the question which one may ask is: what is it that the private facilities pharmacies and individuals are doing right in terms of sourcing or procuring drugs that the Ministry of Health cannot do?,” said BONU.

BONU reiterated the issue of shortage of medications and drugs has been in existence even before the error of covid 19.

BONU called on the ministry to “up its game and change the gear” adding that, “Most often a time we ignore that some senior government officials drag their feet in executing their mandate especially when it comes to procurement and there are many reports of corrupt practices and the minister should address this.”

It said the failure to procure drugs and medications continues to bring tension between the community and nurse which cannot be tolerated.

“We need our leaders to address this as a matter of urgency. We have seen or heard health officials uttering unpractical things to the community where they say a nurse should move around looking for drugs and medications just to please the community and that cannot be accepted and it is time the ministry tells the truth and face their own actions,” said BONU.


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