Update on Chronic Medication Situation
The packaging and delivery of chronic medication to Western Cape health facilities, more specifically the Metro, is still not operating at full capacity and this has unfortunately led to long queues at some clinics.
The transfer of the chronic dispensing unit that handled around 180 000 prescriptions to a new service provider is an enormous undertaking and posing many challenges, in particular the transfer of patient prescription data from the previous provider to the new provider. Progress is being made but it is anticipated that the process will only be fully completed by the end of July.
The management of the Western Cape Department of Health is adopting a hands-on approach and monitoring the process closely. Management is receiving daily updates on progress across the various sites, to get a clear sense of progress and formulate specific strategies to address specific problems. This includes a daily assessment of waiting times across the platform and a trouble shooting mechanism.
Theuns Botha, Western Cape Minister of Health, says with the inception of the chronic medication dispensing six years ago, there were similar and indeed worse problems that had to be managed over the first year. Minister Botha instructed the Department to contract further locums where they are available, to assist the process until all the challenges have been addressed. "Until this issue is resolved it cannot be business as usual."
All facilities have been affected to some degree, and in some instances clinicians have had to re-prescribe medicines. In addition the medicine stock holding at some facilities was insufficient, while at others there is no pharmacy on site and patients were transferred to alternate sites adding to the workload at these sites. These and other factors have contributed to long patient waiting times.
Uti, the company contracted to handle the Chronic Dispensing Unit, has put in place additional quality control measures and brought in a team of engineers from Belgium to work on the automated dispensing machine to prevent picking errors made during the automated dispensing process. They have worked extended hours including weekends and public holidays to address the back-log.
Minister Botha stressed that the Western Cape will be the first province in this country to roll out a medication delivery service, and that breaking new ground necessarily comes with teething problems. "This is such an exciting project. It represents our government motto of Better Together. Once in full swing, the system will create the opportunity for patients to live their life to their full potential instead of waiting hours for medication, and free up much needed capacity in our overcrowded facilities."