The Free State Health Department is in a crisis. The MEC of Health, Benny Malakoane has been accused of mismanagement, fraud and corruption by community organisations. Community health workers have taken the Department to court claiming unfair dismissal. Residents spoke out about the problems in the health system in a recent  People’s Health Comission organised by The Treatment Action Committee. All this shows that the Free State Health Department is in crisis and failing its constituency.

The community of Kutlwanong, Oendaalsrus is a poor  community very reliant on public services offered by the government. They are forced to endure this crisis that compromises their health.

The struggles faced at Kutlwanong’s health facilities are: crowded hospital, lack of patient beds, lack of sanitary gloves, dismissed community health workers and lack of medication, to name a few.

We decided to start our investigation with medical stockouts in the area.

Enoch Moware of TAC told us

“ Medication stockouts  occur when prescribed medication is not available for the patients for a certain period of time. Medication stockouts should not be confused with medication shortage that happens when a patient receives a portion of prescribed medication while he/she does not receive the other half”, said.

Our investigation of medication stockouts in our area began after we read a media report on the  the appearance of dumped medication at the municipality’s landfill site and we witnessed  our people’s testimonials at the Peoples Health Commission.

Our investigation focused on all local clinics (Bophelong, Boithusong, Phedisanang and Geneva) to record our findings. We visited 12 people who gave testimony at the Health Commission. We received information only from patients in our community because the nurses refused to disclose information on patient health issues.

We talked to people about their testimony and asked them whether drugs were in short supply.

Our finding on medical stockouts in Kutlwanong over a period of a month is that the following medication was not available to patients who needed them:

• For diabetes, glycron 80mg,metformin 500mg.

• On hypertension, ridaq 25mg.Phampress 10mg & 20mg.

• Minor ailments, cough mixture 1,5 ml &20ml.

• HIV positive infant medication, mevarapine 2ml & 5ml.

Poloko Mostumi, an epileptic patient told us “I did not receive my medication over a period of 3 moths. “ Martha Khoza, a diabetic patient said “ I am forced to use my grant money to buy expensive medication at the private pharmacy.”

The  provincial health department ordered local health facilitites not to reveal statistics of available medication

Our investigation will extend to other health crisis issues in the area including the hospital  about which the community. has complained.

We call on the government and civil society at large to assist with information on  the problem and to cooperate in resolving it.

We will continue with our independent audit that will monitor the health crisis in the area until the problem of  stockouts is addressed thoughout the province.

We seek to see the establishment of national minimum standards and an urgent  provincial action plan to  address the crisis in a short period of time.

By Thabo Mahlatsi, Tutu Mokgothu, Mthuthuzeli Lengisi