If you were to have a cardiac arrest at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, medical professionals would be unable to provide assistance. It is alleged that the Gauteng health department has compromised procurement procedures, potentially motivated by corrupt intentions, resulting in the shortage of critical medication used to treat individuals experiencing heart attacks.

By Gontse GeE Hlophe

Since Monday, doctors at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital have been lacking the vital ampoule of Fresenius Adrenaline injection, a medication used to revive heart attack patients in critical emergencies.

This information was brought to light by Jack Bloom, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for health in Gauteng. He asserts that the personnel at Bara had previously alerted officials from the Gauteng health department several months in advance regarding the imminent scarcity. Disappointingly, their cautionary message was disregarded.

Bloom attributed the shortage to poor contracting, as the company responsible for supplying the much-needed adrenaline Pharma Q to the hospital’s doctors was failing to fulfil its obligations.

According to him, the Gauteng government prioritised a lesser-known company over established suppliers of adrenaline for its public hospitals, compromising the availability of this essential medication.

“This has left the province’s main hospitals with critical shortages of life-saving drugs and sent further red flags in bidding processes,” he said.

Bloom’s claim has been supported by a report in the Juta Medical Brief, a reputable medical news journal.

“As of 1 June, the hospital had ordered 54 960 units based on consumption but had only received 18 270 units. The hospital uses between 8 000 and 12 000 units of Adrenaline a month,” it stated.

Last week, Dr. Jacqui Brown, the chairperson of the Bara Pharmacy and Therapeutics committee, wrote a letter detailing the numerous shortcomings that have contributed to the imminent medical crisis, as reported by the publication.

On August 13, 2023, a letter was sent to the CEO of the hospital, the acting CEO of the medical supplies depot, and the head of the National Department of Health’s Affordable Medicines Directorate.

The report states that Dr. Brown mentioned how ongoing shortages have resulted in the hospital having to ration Adrenaline. This is because doctors and pharmacists are trying to save the stock for the ICU. Additionally, they have had to use more expensive alternatives like noradrenaline.

Dr Brown said noradrenaline is approved for use only in ICUs and coronary care units because of its “significant side effects”, and that stocks of this drug too, had since become “depleted”.

In her letter, she also mentioned that the hospital had received communication from the medical supplies depot (MSD) regarding the crisis caused by a change of suppliers of Adrenaline.

The report further alleged that “adrenaline had previously been supplied, without glitches,” wrote Dr Brown, by Germany-based multinational Fresenius, but its contract had been reduced to just 10% of its usual supply.”

The Telegram made several attempts to contact the Gauteng Health and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for comment, unfortunately without success. We even went to the hospital in person in the hopes of speaking to relevant staff members, but we were unable to obtain any information.

In the meantime, the concerns persist.

“Adrenaline injections are used to resuscitate heart attack victims and in other life-threatening medical emergencies. Pharma-Q has blamed load-shedding for its failure to supply Adrenaline, but other suppliers are available and should have been approached to supply what is needed.

“Yet again, patients suffer because unreliable companies are chosen for essential medical products.

“We need a speedy solution to the Adrenaline shortage, but the real problem that needs to be fixed is poor procurement practices, often tainted by corruption,” said Jack Bloom.

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