20 June 2018

Namibia: Staff Shortage Delays Medicine Deliveries

A SHORTAGE of staff at the leading public pharmacy at the Windhoek Central Hospital has caused a two-week delay in the delivery of crucial medicine to several old age-homes in Windhoek.

The manager at the privately owned Oude Rus retirement home in Windhoek, Schalk van der Merwe, yesterday said for the past two weeks, they have been experiencing problems with the delivery of the drugs because public health officials say there is a shortage of staff at the pharmacy. Added to that, Van der Merwe also said he was informed that the drug for high blood pressure, Perindopril is also out of stock.

According to media reports last week, state hospitals countrywide have been out of Perindopril since April. Although acting health permanent secretary Petronella Masabane told the media that the ministry received new stock last week, Van der Merwe said they had still received no delivery.

He added that the superintendent at the Windhoek Central Hospital, Dr David Uirab, where they source the medicine from, informed him on Monday that the delay in the delivery of the medicine was due to staff shortages at the hospital's pharmacy.

"We had to send two of our registered nurses a week ago to assist at the pharmacy to speed up the process, but we still have not had the drugs delivered," reiterated Van der Merwe.

Windhoek-based general practitioner Dr Paul Limon said Perindopril is a very important drug which is prescribed to the majority of patients suffering from high blood pressure.

"Perindopril is one of the first-line agent drugs used to manage high blood pressure. It protects the heart and kidneys, and if not administered, could result in disruption of the blood pressure and other complications, including heart attacks and kidney failure," he stressed.

An employee at the Oude Rus home said most of the elderly people suffer from high blood pressure, and depend on the drug.

"I do not know what to tell them when they come to me every day, asking for their medicine. It is very heartbreaking when they look at me, expecting an answer," said the employee.

Sixty pensioners of the Oude Rus old-age home depend on medicine from government hospitals.

A pensioner at the home, Hennie Bernard, told The Namibian yesterday that the fact that their home had to send staff to assist civil servants at the state pharmacy was not a good reflection on the government's service delivery.

"I am very disappointed that there seems to be money for other things, but not for people who need medicine. The reasons provided by the government on the unavailability of medicine are simply not good enough. People are bedridden, and they cannot even get a tablet," he lamented.

A senior registered nurse at the Susanne Grau Heim old-age home in Windhoek, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 39 of the elderly people at the facility depend on the government for medicines.

She also had to assist at the state pharmacy because of staff shortages to fast-track the deliveries.

"There is the head pharmacist, and only two pharmacist assistants," she added.

The nurse said they are forced to order the medicine from a private pharmaceutical supplier, and then forward the quotations to the pensioners, which is costly for them. Uirab yesterday admitted the shortage of staff at the pharmacy, but said he was not sure whether the drug was now in stock.

"It is also not our regular function, as the main referral hospital, to supply old-age homes with medicine, but rather the role of the Khomas regional facility. Also, we have three pharmacy staff who recently resigned, and we are understaffed. Replacing them will take a while. They must just be patient," he stated.

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