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MBABANE – If injured and in need of medical attention, you will have to bring your own gauze bandage.

This is the current practise at the Mbabane Government Hospital, given the shortage of medical drugs and other supplies, most recently gauze bandages. These are the most common type of bandages used by health institutions, which is a woven strip of material with a telfa absorbent.
This type of bandage has reportedly been out of stock for some weeks now at the Mbabane Government Hospital. Injured and sickly members of the public seeking medical attention that requires the use of bandages at this hospital are reportedly not getting help as they need to purchase these from private pharmacies.

Sihlelelwe Mnisi, a snake-bite victim, who was accompanied by her older sister Temalangeni Dlamini, was turned back at the Mbabane Government Hospital after travelling from Siteki. “We were so devastated when told to return next Thursday. We cannot even afford to buy the gauze bandages, as we assumed the hospital would provide as per the norm. Where will we get the E300 from?” she rhetorically asked.

Another patient, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared that she injured and fractured her leg and when she sought medical assistance, she was referred to pharmacies to purchase a bandage. “I had no choice but to borrow money from my relatives since I’m unemployed just so my leg can heal. The bandages I bought cost me E400, excluding the pills I also had to purchase. If this wasn’t the case, the plaster cast would’ve been removed by now,” she said.


Nolwazi Simelane also alluded to this as she relayed her ordeal. “I have had this plaster cast on me for the whole month now. I came all the way from Hlatikhulu, which costs my parents E200 just to travel to Mbabane Government Hospital, only to find that I also have to purchase my own gauze bandage; money I do not even have. We came all the way to Mbabane with the hope that we would be assisted but this is clearly a countrywide problem as clinics in my area could not assist,” she said.

She further mentioned that the removal of the old bandages was overdue and she could no longer bear another day but had no choice since she could not remove them without purchasing new ones. This, she said, was according to what the doctor advised. When Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi appeared before Parliament yesterday, she said the reason for the medical drugs shortage was due to late procurement of medicines late last year. “It started in the third quarter of the financial year. Delivery of medicines was hampered by the closure of suppliers in South Africa between December and mid-January, with most suppliers only having a month to deliver until mid-February, when government procurement is stopped as the financial year begins to wind down,” she said.

Nkosi mentioned that her ministry had started the process of procurement, which includes the development of procurement plans and submissions to the tender board. “We have successfully negotiated with the tender board, who have granted a three-month extension of last financial year’s contracts for medicines. The three-month extension given ends next week to allow the ministry to pay, as well as procure much needed drugs,” she added.


Meanwhile, a health official, who preferred to remain anonymous, revealed that their working conditions were worsening by the day as some patients at the emergency ward, with serious injuries, were compelled to purchase their own gauze bandages. *Khuzani mentioned that this made their work very difficult as some patients were not able to physically go to pharmacies to buy the bandages themselves. “The situation is so bad such that even your normal paracetamol tablets are out of stock. Some patients are now helpless as they do not have money to afford private healthcare, let alone buying medication from pharmacies. It is a mess that needs urgent intervention from government. Our responsibility is to help but right now we feel helpless,” shared Khuzani.

The source further divulged that the shortage was not only for gauze bandages but also for pills, medicine and contraceptives.
*Not real name to protect from victimisation.

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