Critical Drugs Run Out at State Hospitals

A SHORTAGE of two critical drugs used in anesthetic has hit Windhoek Central and Katutura State hospitals, with sources saying the drugs ran out of stock about six months ago.

One of the drugs, Amikacim, is an antibiotic while the other, Robimol is used in the “reversal process after anesthetic”.

In addition to these two drugs, The Namibian also understands that pharmacies at the two hospitals do not have Allergex – a basic antihistamine.

A senior medical practitioner attached to a ward responsible for critically ill patients, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Namibian yesterday that they are being forced to use less effective alternative drugs.

The doctor, however, said the alternative drugs are prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). He further warned that the two premium State health facilities “are falling apart” as a result of a lack of general maintenance.

Another doctor described the current situation yesterday as a crisis, which poses a potentially explosive situation that can “wreak havoc” because it could result in cases of multi-drug resistance.

“In the long run, it can be catastrophic,” the doctor said, adding that in the department where she works “basic things you need” have been lacking for a while now.

She further said that “you cannot run a hospital without antibiotics”.

A mother, whose four-year-old daughter was hospitalised for chest problems at the Katutura State Hospital last week, said they were sent home on Wednesday without antibiotics when the child was discharged.

They had to return three days later to then only collect the medication.

Although the Ministry of Health and Social Services permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi initially sounded baffled yesterday when approached for comment, he conceded that medicine shortage is “a very serious thing”.

“Who’s telling you that? What could be the cause? I didn’t hear anything,” Ndishishi said at first, adding that he was unaware of any shortage of certain critical drugs at the hospitals.

He also said he was never informed that some drugs had been unavailable for months now, and that medical staff should not wait until medicine stocks have been depleted before placing orders.

“I have the budget. I want to know and I want to buy it,” he said, and explained that medicine is bought either through tender or the buyout process where there is an emergency.

When The Namibian visited him yesterday afternoon, Ndishishi admitted there could have been a shortage of a medicine at a certain point in time.

For every drug, Ndishishi said there are two alternatives which are not of a poorer standard. This is in contravention of what an expert said yesterday.

But he blamed it on the shortage of pharmacists which results in poor monitoring of medicine. The PS also blamed the shortages on drug production discontinuation by the manufacturers.

The other reason, he explained, are some courier companies which do not transport medicine if it does not make any commercial sense.

On the state of the infrastructure at the hospitals, Ndishishi said: “Yes, they are falling apart because they have outlived their age.”

Just months ago, this newspaper also reported on the medicine shortage in the ministry’s pharmaceutical warehouses.

Source : The Namibian