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‘If we catch the people who did this, we will have them charged with murdering those patients who died.’
So said Dr Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general of the national health department in response to the theft of chronic medication and the destruction of pharmaceutical facilities in KwaZulu-Natal.
City Press reported that 90 pharmacies, as well as medicine factories and warehouses from which medicines were distributed, were looted or destroyed last week.
The report said that Crisp warned that more than half the patients who used chronic medication in KwaZulu-Natal would have to do without next week.
‘What [looters] have done is steal chronic medication from people in the public and private sectors, medicines that keep people alive.’
While the health department believed that large-scale vaccinations would resume in the coming weeks, there was great concern about patients who relied on chronic medication such as insulin for diabetes and antiretroviral drugs for HIV.
Crisp noted that, on Wednesday night, the factory of pharmaceutical company Cipla was set on fire in Durban. ‘Cipla is one of the largest manufacturers of generic medicines,’ he said.
The SA Pharmacy Council said that Covid-19 vaccines had also been lost due to the looting of pharmacies in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
The council could not say how many doses were stolen or destroyed.
City Press said the Covid-19 vaccination programme came to a near halt in the province due to the violence, with daily vaccinations dropping from 40 000 to ‘barely’ 4 000.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said this was chiefly because health workers were unable to reach vaccination centres.
The Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC), tasked with ensuring the safety of health workers and users of health services, is reported as saying that the impact of the looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng is going to hit the health system hard.
‘The marches will put additional pressure on health systems and health workers … through an increase in Covid-19 cases,’ said OHSC spokesperson Ricardo Mahlakanya.
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