Ingutsheni hit by acute drug shortages

Ingutsheni Central Hospital in Bulawayo is faced with a critical shortage of medicines due to an erratic supply from the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm), with patients forced to buy their own medicines.

Relatives of patients receiving mental health treatment services have raised concerns that some of the medicine is beyond their reach.  

“We were told the hospital has a shortage of drugs and there is an injection called FD (Fluphenazine Decanoate used to treat certain mental or mood problems) that is in short supply. So patients are now forced to buy the medication and it costs US$10,” said a relative who spoke to CITE.

Ingutsheni Hospital Clinical Director, Dr Wellington Ranga admitted the institution was faced with a shortage of drugs but was trying its best to source the medication.

“Our stocks are a bit erratic at the moment. Not only do we buy drugs but food and other items as well, so resources are not enough. Sometimes we can have these drugs, sometimes we don’t have them. The stocks are not really what we expect and it is a bit difficult in our environment,” he said.

Dr Ranga encouraged relatives to understand that buying drugs was a necessity and noted that in some instances individuals had biased attitudes towards people with mental illnesses.

“If you go to Mpilo Central Hospital and you are told there is no drip, one buys the drip. If you go to United Bulawayo Hospital and you are told to buy a plaster, one buys the plaster. But people end up looking for reasons not to buy medication for the mentally ill. The community knows about mental health challenges but they just don’t buy drugs comfortably,” said the clinical director.

He highlighted that people should be comfortable in assisting their mentally ill relatives.

“But people don’t want to buy the drugs for their mentally ill patients,” Dr Ranga said.

“This FD drug is an injection that is given to people once a month, some people take pills every day while others are given the jab once a month.”

The clinical director said the outpatient’s department is usually the worst affected.

“If there is no medication in the pharmacy, outpatients are then told to buy,” he said.

According to Dr Ranga, the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) is Ingutsheni’s main medication supplier but if the company had challenges in sourcing drugs that impacted the hospital as well.

“We do liaise with the Ministry of Health and Child Care about our challenges but NatPharm is our main supplier of drugs. So if we have challenges with pills we have to go through NatPharm. Sometimes for some reason or the other, pills may not be accessible in the market or there would be no money to buy them. As a hospital, we do put pressure to receive our supplies but at the end of the day these variables also come into play,” he said.

The clinical director said in light of these challenges, he found it “queer” that some people were not forthcoming to assist their mentally ill relatives.

“People just want to abandon their sick relatives and this is an attitude problem more than anything. It’s not like people don’t know about mental illness, they just have conclusions about it, which is a different scenario when someone is suffering from leukaemia. Perhaps, we need more educational programmes about mental health to educate people,” Dr Ranga said.

“Our patients suffer from the issue of a need. For instance, ordinarily when you go to Mpilo for theatre, one can’t eat soon after, but our patients in all situations eat, yet some would say they eat a lot. It’s not like the patients will eat all the food at home. This is really part of the game called ‘expressed emotion’ where everything to do with a mentally ill patient, even if someone coughs, it’s attributed to mental illness.”

He noted that since mental illness had to do with needs, people were unwilling to give mental ill patients what they required.

“Take for instance, when someone has diabetes, their diet changes and relatives even buy artificial sweeteners for them but don’t complain so it’s an attitude problem. We have raised this issue to communities to say our patients also deserve better. Their demands are not extraordinary but basic simple things that they are crucified for,” Dr Ranga summed.

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