Uganda: Drug Shortage Hits Jinja Mental Hospital

26 November 2019

The psychiatric unit of Bugembe Health Centre IV in Bugembe Town Council, Jinja District, has been hit by drug shortage due to a big number of patients.

The unit in-charge, Ms Proscovia Nakamuume, said every month, they receive 120 mental health patients but the drugs are not enough.

"We have a challenge of mental drug shortage yet patients are financially incapacitated.

"Each Carbamazepine tablet costs Shs200 yet a patient takes three tablets daily; while each sodium tablet costs Shs1,000 and Fluphenazine, which is a monthly injection, is also very expensive," she said.

She was speaking on Saturday at the launch of a Shs1.7 billion five-year strategic plan for Uganda Mental Health Fellowship (UHMF), an association of people living with mental illness in Busoga sub-region, based at Bugembe Health Centre IV.

Ms Nakamuume said psychiatric patients are not like malaria patients who stop taking drugs after recovery.

Mr Phillip Kintu, a patient, said he started psychiatric medication in 1982 when he was 16 years due to depression following the gruesome murder of his father.

But the biggest challenge he has encountered, he said, is the inadequate drugs in government health facilities.

Cost of treatment

"I am currently taking chlorpromazine, which costs Shs2,000 per 10 tablets, yet I am supposed to swallow two every day. The same applies to Carbamazepine and Artane (Trihexyphenidyl).

"I also receive a monthly injection of fluoxetine at a cost of Shs50,000 to help me calm my mood, but getting these drugs on the open market is expensive," he said.

The executive director of UMHF, Mr Joel Ssemwanga, said many of the psychiatric patients depend on drugs but accessing them has been a problem.

"Government needs to include drugs for mental health problems among the core essential drugs so that they are provided for like other drugs so that people can access them within the government system," he said.

Official responds

The Jinja Assistant District Health Officer, Mr Nathan Bagagire, said they resolved that in case of a shortage of drugs, they get from other health centres where there are few patients.

"We have nothing to do as a district because we have little money. We, however, agreed that if there is a shortage, the Ministry of Health allows us to get the drugs from other hospitals or other districts with lower uptake cases," he said.

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