Sunday, June 16, 2024

Shortage of medicines in gov’t hospitals has reached appalling levels

Botswana Government should do more to replenish the much depleted public hospitals many of which lack even the most basic of supplies.

At the moment the public health sector is overburdened and certainly under-resourced.

This is a toxic mix waiting to implode.

The long queues at the public sector hospitals speak volumes.

They are an indictment on the quality of service provided inside those facilities.

Patients across the country are turned away or told to bring elementary things like bandages and even penicillin for themselves.

The pandemic has played a role.

During the pandemic almost all of other public health needs were set aside as all effort was channeled towards securing the life-saving vaccines.

In the end Botswana performed much better than most countries in delivering vaccines.

Restocking will not happen swiftly.

If it’s allowed to go on and on, an already critical the situation will get worse.

Botswana has a big ageing population the majority of who are on medication.

These are mostly patients suffering from non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure and also sugar diabetes.

It is only a matter of time before a number of them see a marked deterioration in their health.

Given the fact that these are largely elderly people, many of them with no ready cash to make purchases from private pharmacies, it is important that the matter be attended to as a matter of urgency.

The number of supplies purchased for restocking should be proportional to the needs on the ground.

Thankfully it would seem like HIV/AIDS retrovirals have not been among the most affected.

Throwing money at the problem is unlikely to be a silver bullet.

The system needs much more than just money.

It needs imagination.

It was sufficiently clear even before the pandemic that something was amiss with the stocking of medication in the public health sector.

A lot of medicines were expiring while still in the shelves at the Central Medical stores even as hospitals were in need.

This pointed out to possible defects in the supply chain or in the systems.

For too long Botswana Government has resisted getting its systems automated.

It would seem like this has now caught up with them, at enormous cost in poor service delivery.

There are inefficiencies across the supply line.

There has also been a lot of misuse and corruption.

The situation had begun to get acute including among referral hospitals.

Money has become a big issue for Botswana government.

There used to be a time when Botswana government was awash with money.

That was long before the pandemic.

By the time the pandemic set in, money was already hard to come by.

The pandemic only exacerbated the problem.

Very clearly there are procurement issues that need to be addressed.

Money is only a small part of it.

Supply chain is fraught with many hiccups.

Ensuring steady sources of supply is the other.

Botswana still has a very strong public health infrastructure that remains the envy of the world.

The distance between clinics has over the years drastically reduced as government fast-tracked the building of the same.

But it is important to remember that staffing those clinics with well trained personnel is as important as equipping them and also getting good and assured supply of medical supplies.

There is a serious possibility that replenishing public hospitals will not be happening soon given the extent to which depletion has become a serious nationwide problem.

But something has to happen.

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