Patients pay more as hospitals hit with drug shortage

cancer drugs

A medic displays drugs at a hospital. Public hospitals in Isiolo are faced with a shortage of drugs, affecting patients.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Residents of Isiolo are paying more to access a range of drugs, including antibiotics, from local chemists due to a shortage at public hospitals.

Private chemists have taken advantage of the shortage, which has lasted for about a month, to sell the drugs, including generics, at exorbitant prices, exposing patients to inexplicable suffering.

Medical Services Chief Officer Abdirahman Mohammed said the shortage was due to delays by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) in delivering Sh42.6 million worth of drugs ordered earlier by the county government.

"The situation is not dire. Our hospitals are providing all the necessary services and we are working hard to ensure that the drugs are delivered this week," Mr Mohammed told the Nation.

A Nation investigation at Isiolo Referral Hospital and a number of dispensaries in Isiolo Central revealed a shortage of several antibiotics and mental health drugs.

Amoxicillin, Augmentin and Azithromycin are some of the antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections that are unavailable at the facilities, as are Cetirizine and Meloxicam tablets for allergies and arthritis respectively.

The hospitals also lack lactulose, a synthetic sugar used to treat or prevent liver complications, benzyl benzoate for skin infections, rash cream for minor skin irritations and rivaroxaban to prevent blood clots.

Mental health patients have also been affected by the shortage of fluphenazine and chlorpromazine (CPZ) at the referral hospital. The drugs are used to treat conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Seek services

"The county should procure drugs quickly because there is no need to seek services if we cannot get drugs," one of the patients who was sent to buy amoxicillin said as she rushed out of the hospital.

We followed her to the pharmacy where she paid Sh700 for the drug, the original brand of which costs between Sh400 and Sh500. Its generic version was sold for Sh200.

Ms Halima Ali, who came to the referral hospital with a swollen eye, had no access to fluorometholone drops to reduce swelling and itching.

"Apart from exposing us to exploitation by private chemists, there is a high probability of buying the wrong drugs because the prescriptions are not legible," she lamented.

The health official attributed the delay in the delivery of drugs to recent changes at Kemsa, which accounts for over 65 per cent of the drugs procured by district hospitals.

Mr Mohammed said Governor Abdi Ibrahim Guyo was committed to ensuring continuous availability of drugs to all health facilities.