Africa's first phamacy ATM rev­o­lu­tionises pub­lic health care

Vuk'uzenzele - - General -

Alexan­dra res­i­dents can now get their chronic medicines at the touch of a but­ton, thanks to Africa’s first ‘ATM phar­macy’.

In mid-March, the Gaut­eng De­part­ment of Health launched the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Phar­macy Dis­pen­sary Unit (PDU) in the sprawl­ing town­ship sit­u­ated in the north of Johannesburg. It will re­duce con­ges­tion at the sur­round­ing pub­lic health care fa­cil­i­ties and al­low pa­tients to get their chronic medicines and be on their way within min­utes.

Speak­ing at the launch of the PDU, Gaut­eng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramok­gopa said that the state-of-the-art sys­tem will dra­mat­i­cally re­duce wait­ing times and will also im­prove the pub­lic health care sys­tem.

“We are rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing things and mov­ing with the times; the ATM phar­macy will mod­ernise the pub­lic health care sys­tem.

“We know that one of our big­gest prob­lems is long wait­ing times and queues at clin­ics and hospi­tals, and we are con­fi­dent that this will soon be­come a thing of the past,” said Ramok­gopa.

There are al­ready 400 000 pa­tients in Gaut­eng who re­ceive their medicines off­site, from stand-alone and re­tail phar­ma­cies, as part of the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to re­lieve con­ges­tion at clin­ics.

The MEC said ini­tia­tives like off­site medicine col­lec­tion and elec­tronic dis­pens­ing are ex­am­ples of what the fu­ture holds for the pub­lic health care sec­tor.

The PDU was launched in part­ner­ship with pri­vate health com­pa­nies and non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing RightTo-Care and Right e-Phar­macy. A team from Ger­many as­sisted with the de­vel­op­ment of the tech­nol­ogy.

The sys­tem is run by qual­i­fied phar­ma­cists and phar­macy as­sis­tants and in­te­grates with the clin­i­cal man­age­ment at pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties of pa­tients with chronic con­di­tions. When us­ing the ATM phar­macy, pa­tients need to have their bar-coded green ID, smart ID card or their phar­macy card scanned into the sys­tem.

They will then need to en­ter their pin num­ber into the ATM. The sys­tem will con­nect them to a re­mote phar­ma­cist who will help them, while the ma­chine reads the pre­scrip­tion.

Shortly af­ter this, the robotic ma­chine will la­bel and dis­pense the med­i­ca­tion, which will be dropped in the col­lec­tion slot.

A receipt will also be printed for the pa­tient which will in­di­cate the next col­lec­tion date. In ad­di­tion, pre­scrip­tion col­lec­tion re­minders will be sent by SMS. Late col­lec­tions are im­me­di­ately flagged for fol­low up.

Pa­tients can choose to be served in one of 11 lan­guages of­fered and sup­port per­son­nel are on site to help pa­tients deal with the tech­nol­ogy.

Other sites in Diep­sloot and Soweto have been se­lected for the pi­lot of this pub­lic phar­macy pro­gramme.

Speak­ing to Vuk’uzen­zele, phar­ma­cists as­signed to the Alex PDU said that the sys­tem will help in de­liv­er­ing bet­ter ser­vices to pa­tients who need med­i­ca­tion for chronic ill­nesses.

Ac­cord­ing to as­sis­tant phar­ma­cist Nom­pumelelo Ramot­shela, the sys­tem has been wel­comed by health work­ers, es­pe­cially phar­ma­cists.

“We’re hav­ing very good feed­back from the pa­tients. We’ve seen that they’re happy be­cause now they don’t have to take leave from work when they’re com­ing to the clinic.

“Most im­por­tantly, we can help a lot of pa­tients, but this time around it’s faster,” said Ramot­shela, who added that she can now go to work feel­ing proud and know­ing that she won’t have to deal with an­gry pa­tients frus­trated about the long wait at pub­lic health care cen­tres.

Mean­while, Alexan­dra res­i­dent and pa­tient Al­bie Modise said that he ap­pre­ci­ates gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to bring about much-needed change.

“This ATM will def­i­nitely help a lot of us who are from this com­mu­nity.

“I used to go to the Alexan­dra clinic and the queues were al­ways long; it was tir­ing and some­what dis­cour­ag­ing,” said Modise.

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