By SIBONISO NKAMBULE | 2023-07-27
In the midst of the growing crisis over the shortage of medication, patients at the Mbabane Government Hospital left their wards to stage a protest, demanding medication.
The patients decried the shortages of medication, saying it placed their lives at risk and that they were tired of the continuous empty promises to be afforded treatment which never came.
They also complained about the long waiting list at the Orthopaedic theatre.
To show their frustration, they blocked the hospital’s main gate with a hospital bed used by an admitted patient with leg fractures. Others used crutches while some were in wheelchairs.
A group of about 15 patients’ faces were etched with anger and desperation, calling for an end of the crisis, that they termed a medical genocide.
They were carrying placards that read, 'We need our medication' and 'No more delays’.
This is the second time patients admitted at the hospital are involved in a protest action.
Last month, some patients left their wards to join healthcare workers in petitioning the ministry of health over the shortage of medical supplies and staff among other concerns.
This medical staff when petitioning government, said the continuous shortage of medication and healthcare personnel among other issues had resulted in unnecessary deaths and amputations
The patients at the time said they decided to join the healthcare workers as they were tired of continuing being admitted yet they were not receiving any treatment, stating that they wanted to return to their homes.
This time around, blocking the main entrance for about an hour, they called for the ministry of health officials to address the situation, saying they had been pushed to the brink as they had tried to engage them with no hope.
They argued that their health was at stake and vowed not to back down until their cries were heard and supplied with the medication they need.
One of the patients, Menzi Masuku, said the lack of essential medications left them desperate and vulnerable, thus resorted to taking matters into their own hands.
Masuku said some of them had been admitted for almost two months without getting the assistance they need.
He explained that the protesting patients were admitted for an Orthopaedic operation, but they had not been attended to and were told that there was a shortage of medication.
According to Masuku, they were promised that medication would be available as government had paid all its suppliers but this changed after a day as they were told that government had not completed payments.
Masuku said doctors told them that the theatre was grounded because there was a shortage of medication, adding that they were also promised to be taken to the Mbabane Clinic, where they would conduct the required operations but that had also not happened.
He further said they had spent a lot of money buying their own medication while waiting to be booked at the theatre.
“Each and every day we spend a lot of money buying medical supplies needed while waiting to be operated on. While waiting, we also record exuberant hospital bills. We were first told that government paid all suppliers and medication was coming but nothing has changed,” a frustrated Masuku said as he sat on his bed, which was wheeled from the ward.
He revealed that the theatre last operated last week and those who were operated on were forced to buy their own medical supplies.
“You are forced to buy everything needed because there is nothing. Imagine buying your own medication and at the end must also pay the hospital bills,” he said.
The emphatic Masuku said all they wanted was for the situation to be given the agency it deserved so that they could be discharged to continue with their lives.
He said some of them were breadwinners and being stuck at the hospital left their families stranded as there was no one to provide for them.
Masuku appealed to government to find lasting solutions to the crisis in order to prevent lives being lost.
“We demand action from government. We have had enough and we need our medication now,” Masuku said.
Patrick Sihlongonyane also shared similar sentiments, saying they had spent almost two months at the hospital without getting any assistance.
Sihlongonyane said the hospital charges them each and every day while admitted but they did not get the much needed help.
He said they could not go home because doctors had not discharged them. According to Sihlongonyane, doctors told them that there was nothing they could do because government had not purchased the required medication.
The doctors, Sihlongonyane said, were only able to give them prescriptions papers for them to purchase the medication they needed while waiting to be attended to at the theatre.
He further claimed that some patients had lost their jobs after being admitted at the hospital yet they were not getting the help they need.
“We also have debts because we buy medical supplies each and every day in order to keep away pain. We have tried everything we can think of but no one is paying attention, thus we decided to stage the blockade until our cries are heard,” Sihlongonyane said.
Director of Health Services, Dr Velephi Okello said drugs were being delivered at heath facilities, however, due to payments delays, the drugs were not enough as yet.
Okello said the ministry was following up on suppliers to bring larger quantities of the required drugs.
“Currently, the drugs get depleted quickly when they are delivered to facilities,” Okello said.
She stated that with Orthopaedic long waiting list, the ministry was working on a strategy to mitigate the issue and stated that this was exacerbated by factors beyond the drug shortage, including the lack of the Orthopaedic specialists at the hospital.
She said recruitment process was on-going for the specialists.
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