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LUNCHTIME PICKET OVER SHORTAGE OF DRUGS

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MBABANE – Frustrated!

This best describes the nurses at the Mbabane Government Hospital, who have resolved to engage in a lunchtime picket over the shortage of drugs and supplies. During the picket, the nurses voiced out their disappointment, following an announcement made by the Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi, that they would be destroying expired drugs worth over E3 million, yet the hospital did not have drugs. They picketed around the hospital and also visited the Outpatient Department (OPD), where they informed patients about the status quo. The health workers resolved to picket until Friday, where they would deliver a petition to the Ministry of Health.

Expired

Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) Unit Committee Chairperson at the hospital, Sanele Gwebu, questioned how the drugs could expire while the hospital did not have medication. Gwebu wondered why the Central Medical Stores (CMS) kept drugs for so long until they expired. He said they were tired of watching the ministry destroy drugs while they did not have any medication at the hospital. He said this showed that the drugs were secretly kept for reasons best known to the ministry, while patients suffered. Gwebu said as health employees, they were bothered by patients complaining about the shortage of drugs and supplies.

The chairperson said the most painful part was that the patients were their friends, relatives, parents and themselves. He said with the lack of medication at the facility, which was a referral hospital, by extension they were killing the patients.  According to Gwebu, they wanted to put an end to the frustration endured by patients, some of whom travelled long distances for nothing. He said they had engaged the ministry on several occasions on the issue and it seemed they were refusing to listen. Gwebu stated that one of the officials at the ministry told them that they were now used to the protests and pickets, which was an insult to the healthcare workers. Furthermore, he stated that there was security threat at the hospital, following that the company that offered the services downed tools over unpaid salaries for two months. Since Monday, the hospital has not had security.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Unit Committee, Sandile Mlotsa, told patients that the working environment at the hospital was no longer conducive as it was unworkable. Mlotsa stated that drugs and supplies were in shortage and patients would be given prescriptions to purchase the medication at private pharmacies. He said most of the medication was expensive at the private pharmacies and cost between E350 to E500. Mlotsa said they were not amused by the suffering of patients at the hospital caused by poor administration of the ministry.

Challenges

One of the patients questioned the healthcare workers what the management’s response was when they were told about the challenges. In response, Mlotsa stated that the ministry failed to provide them with the necessary drugs and supplies, but they were shocked to learn that a large amount had expired and was to be destroyed. “Nothing has expired at this hospital but there is a shortage.” Mlotsa said there was no diabetes and hypertension medication and the elderly had to purchase it in private pharmacies, yet they did not have money. The patients said the government did not care and love emaSwati but was pushing them to their early death.

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