Tuesday, May 14, 2019

More deaths in Swaziland as government fails to pay medicine suppliers

People have died in Swaziland / eSwatini as medicine has run out because the government has not paid suppliers.

At least three patients using the Nhlangano Health Centre died because they could not get drugs to control their blood pressure.

The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union believes many more may have died across Swaziland.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (14 May 2019), ‘It has emerged that across the country, health facilities are struggling with a diminishing supply of critical drugs, but most affected are the elderly, who suffer from high blood pressure.’

It reported that Nhlangano Health Centre has also run out of medicine to treat chronic conditions like stomach ulcers, and for people with mental illnesses. 

It reported a health worker saying, ‘It’s a very precarious situation. Doctors are now scared to admit patients in the absence of medicine because relatives may end shifting the blame to the hospital, yet the underlying problem is that of the drug shortage.’ 

The newspaper said there was also a serious shortage of medicines to treat flu, just as the winter season approached.

President of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union Bheki Mamba told the Times several facilities across the country continued to face serious challenges because they had run out of medical supplies.

Mamba said, ‘Government has failed in its obligation to make health care accessible to the populace, and this has resulted in people losing trust in the health system.’

Public services in Swaziland are in crisis as the government, handpicked by absolute monarch King Mswati III, owes E3 billion to suppliers.

There have been reports across Swaziland that hospitals cannot afford to feed patients and vital medicines have run out. 

In December 2018 the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Mbabane Government Hospital was reported to be close to shut-down because equipment was not being maintained. People were dying because of this, it was reported.

In September 2018 it was reported at least six children in Swaziland had died from diarrhoea and many more were sick because the government was broke and could not pay for vaccines. It would cost US$6 for the vaccine to immunise a child.

In June 2018 it was revealed there were only 12 working public ambulances in the whole of Swaziland because the government failed to maintain them. It had bought no new ambulances since 2013.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported there were not enough doctors, nurses and support staff. WHO conducted the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scoping exercise in Swaziland. Its report stated, ‘The country has inadequate health workforce in both numbers and skills. The distribution of health workforce is also skewed in favour of urban areas with some rural health facilities having staffing gaps. Other health workforce challenges include; retention of skilled staff due to frequent rotation of workers especially nurses; and government absorption of donor funded positions.’

WHO added, ‘The distribution of health facilities and access to essential health services create inequities between rural and urban populations.’

See also

Report: patients die as Swaziland government hospital runs out of cash

Medicine shortage: five die

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