Monday, 20 April 2020


PATIENTS are having challenges getting medication as most pharmacies are demanding payment in foreign currency while those paying in local currency are made to pay more than equivalent to the black market rate.

Due to the lockdown, Mpilo Central Hospital and the United Bulawayo Hospitals closed their outpatients departments and are attending to emergency cases only as part of measures to decongest the medical institutions. 

This has left many people with fewer options when they fall ill hence many are going direct to pharmacies to consult on what medication to buy.

The few who can afford to consult private doctors are given prescriptions but also face the same challenge of pharmacies demanding forex. 

What has worsened the situation for the sick is that many pharmacies are turning away people on medical aid. 

The prohibitive cost of drugs and the pharmacies’ refusal to sell drugs to those on medical aid, is forcing some patients to resort to buying only part of the medication on prescriptions thereby compromising their health.

A number of Bulawayo residents spoken to while queuing for drugs at pharmacies, said they were in a dilemma as a result of exorbitant prices of drugs and the pharmacies’ refusal to serve those on medical aid.

Most of them said they were struggling to pay for medication in cash as most pharmacies were rejecting medical aid saying there was no guarantee that they would be paid their money after the lockdown. 

“They are just giving us claim forms and telling us to pay in cash. As it is, I am using the last money that I had. They want forex only. I cannot go to UBH and get the medication because they are saying they are only open for emergency cases only. I am getting the medication for my wife who suffers from arthritis and can no longer walk,” said Mr Ian Ngwenya. 

Some chronic patients said they were also struggling to get medication.

“I am diabetic and I have to pay cash for my insulin injection and I used to get the other pills at Mpilo.

“Now the hospital is saying they are only serving emergency cases only because there is Covid-19. Iam now supposed to buy everything which I cannot afford.

It’s not Covid that will kill us but it is the lack of proper medications,” said the patient who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

Some residents said they had resorted to frequenting municipal clinics which are overwhelmed most of the time. 

They however said they were not getting much from the clinics as most drugs were said to be out of stock.

Mr Bob Dlamini, a senior citizen who was queuing for drugs at a pharmacy at Ascot Shopping Centre said he was worried about getting infected with Covid-19 making trips to find medication.
He said what had worsened his situation was that his wife could not visit her doctor in the CBD due to roadblocks and had therefore resorted to using an old prescription to buy drugs for her.

“I fear that as an elderly man, I may get infected with the virus as I am here at this shopping complex with so many other people.

“We are trying to keep social distance but you just cannot be too sure. I am getting the medication for ugogo and she has asthma and high blood pressure. I can’t use medical aid because I cannot get to town to get a new prescription,” said Mr Dlamini. Chronicle


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