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Better access to medication

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
South Africans will soon get their medication from self-service “ATM-style” machines instead of pharmacies.The Pharmacy Dispensary Unit will give patients access to quality healthcare.

This is as a result of a partnership between the Department of Health and Right To Care. 

Although not yet officially launched, the state-of-the-art Pharmacy Dispensary Unit (PDU) is currently functional at Helen Joseph Hospital, Alexandra, in Johannesburg, and at Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria.

The aim of the new technology is to reduce long queues, improve service delivery, and provide a quality health care system. 

Speaking to Vuk’uzenzele during a visit to Helen Joseph Hospital, David Molele, who does robotics and application support for Right-e pharmacy, said the machine will also cut down on administration glitches.

“The system which has been warmly received by those who’ve used it thus far has cut down the waiting time at state facilities. 

‘”The system has also seen the waiting time to collect medication being reduced to between 15 and 20 minutes and that’s what we want,” said Molele. 

The PDU works like a bank ATM machine. To access their medication, patients will first have to register for the service. Next they will get a card that is similar to a bank card. To “withdraw” their medication, patients will have to simply insert their card into the PDU machine, enter their PIN and select the medication they require from the list of medicines on their prescription.

According to Molele, the aim is to have this system available in places such as shopping centres and along taxi routes to allow patients to easily get their medication when it is convenient for them. 

The ATM system is already available at Alex Plaza in Alexandra, Ndofaya Mall in Soweto, as well as in Diepsloot.

Obtaining medicine this way is likely to make it easier for people who are receiving HIV treatment to get their medicine.

Speaking at the International AIDS Conference held in Durban recently, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said South Africa is running the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world.

‘’The number of patients on treatment has over three decades gone from 400 000 to over 3.4 million. However, the number of healthcare workers has not kept up with the increase, often leading to frustrated patients and lack of treatment adherence.

“It is thus imperative that we embrace all available measures to make it easy for people to continue with the treatment,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

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