NHI pilot succeeds in cutting pharmacy queues

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Patients in rural KwaZulu-Natal are able to pick up their medicine from a wide range of local pick-up points, in a national experiment aimed at cutting the long queues at hospital pharmacies, says a Health Systems Trust report.

The system is for stable patients in the Umzinyathi district who have been on medication – including antiretroviral drugs – for at least six months. Patients can chose to collect their medicine from various private pick-up points, including factories, shops, schools, creches and tribal court offices. The medicine is dispatched to the local pick-up points by a private courier company, Medipost, which sends patients an SMS when their medicine has been delivered.

“The aim is to improve patients’ access to chronic medication by letting them collect it at accessible pick-up points that stay open longer than normal clinic hours,” says Sineziwe Mazibuko, who is the project’s manager. “The pick-up points include private doctors, pharmacies, non-governmental organisations and factories with occupational health nurses,” adds Mazibuko. “We also have community pick-up points that have signed service-level agreements with the district.”

Pick-up points have to be brick buildings with electricity, water and a fridge for storing sensitive medicine. Medipost has assisted some with fridges and security.

The community pick-up points get paid around R7 a patient, so the system is not only saving patients’ time and de-congesting hospitals, but also generating income in one of the country’s poorest districts.The total cost is around R30 per patient.

Umzinyathi is one of the country’s 11 National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot districts, and if the decentralized delivery system works here, it could be rolled out in other parts of the country.

“A stable supply of medicine is a non-negotiable part of the NHI,” says Abdus Cassim, who is the district’s NHI co-ordinator. “Since we have introduced the new delivery model, there has been a marked drop in waiting times in hospital pharmacies,” Cassim says.

Full Health Systems Trust report

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