Hundreds of patients are being referred to Lae’s Angau Hospital and pharmacies as urban clinics in city run short of basic drugs and medical supplies.
At Buimo Clinic, staff showed a near empty dispensary. They have run out of antibiotics and antimalarial drugs including the government approved Mala 1, used in the first line of treatment at smaller clinics.
“We don’t have antibiotics like amoxicillin, septrin and chloramphenicol,” says Miriam Key, the officer in charge. “Not even primaquine which is used in combination with Mala1. Primaquin is used to treat malaria parasites in the liver.”
Many of the staff at Buimo Clinic have never openly spoken about the drug shortages out of fear that they might be penalized. But after battling with the problem for three years, they have now revealed that the Government Area Medical Store has not been providing a regular supply of the Mala 1 antimalarial since 2015.
Much of their medicines come from donor partners who should, ideally, be supplementing the main government supply. Along with bed nets, the clinic gets antimalarial drugs from Rotary Against Malaria – a volunteer organization which has become an important partner in the fight against malaria.
In August and September 2017, when the supplies of antimalarial drugs ran short, clinics throughout Lae continued to refer patients to pharmacies for their medical supplies. Pharmacies in turn, increased prices from an average of K40 per treatment course to K80.
“In that period our malaria stats rose significantly,” says Miriam Key. “Many people can’t afford K40. They can’t even afford K2.
“We are dealing with the urban poor who can’t afford the pay. We keep the clinic open even when there is no medicine just so we can give them proper diagnosis and then refer them to a hospital or a pharmacy.
“I’ve told families not to contribute money to funerals but to contribute to pay for medicine when one of them gets sick. Lives are more important.”
The story is the same for Malahang Urban Clinic, one of the busiest in Lae City. Staff report that they received half of what is needed for the months of September and October.
“Patients often come back to the clinic because they can’t afford to pay for medicines at the pharmacies,” a staff member said.
This is a developing story. If you have any further information, please contact me.