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Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Health has been caught flat-footed. DA MPL Jack Bloom says the province’s clinics have run short of more than 1.2 million birth-control pills this year.
This was revealed by MEC for Health Hope Papo in a written reply to Bloom’s questions in the Gauteng legislature earlier this month.
Papo said shortages were experienced with Microval pills from May to August this year and Nordette pills from March to July. Papo said the shortages were due to “erratic demands by facilities”, resulting in earlier-than-expected stock depletion.
Additionally, the contracted supplier could not fulfil increased orders placed in time to “cope with the demand”.
And with Thursday being World Contraception Day, Bloom said it was a “poor excuse” by the department as the shortage of these pills had probably led to many unplanned pregnancies.
“There were some months that not a single Microval or Nordette pill was delivered to public clinics. Patients can substitute one contraceptive method for another, but there are side-effects to doing that,” Bloom said on Wednesday.
The department supplies nine contraceptive devices to clinics, including male and female condoms, the pill, as well as injections.
According to the World Contraception Day’s website, www.Your-life.com, more than 41 percent of the 208 million pregnancies each year are unplanned. Each year, up to 15 million females aged 15-19 give birth. In this age group, pregnancy-related deaths are the leading cause of mortality.
Gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Oscar Shimange said the country had to go back to basics in terms of meeting the supply and demand for contraception, otherwise the number of people not using contraception would increase.
“The direct impact of more people not using contraception is that we’ll see an increased number of unplanned pregnancies and therefore an increased number of abortions,” he said.
Bloom said he had been getting reports from clinics, predominantly in Ekurhuleni, where they were out of contraceptives completely.
He said: “Some were out of stock for several months. Imagine what happens then. Imagine how many unplanned pregnancies can happen. The department simply has to give family planning more attention.”
On what was being done to ensure there was always a supply of contraceptives in future, Papo said: “We are currently implementing a programme to improve the overall performance of the medical supply depots, regional depots and facilities on matters of supply and demand of medical supplies. We are doing this with the support of the national Department of Health and national and provincial treasuries.”
Meanwhile, Shimange said teen abortions had become a very serious problem, as, with the increased abortions, there would be increased numbers of complications during pregnancy or birth, such as haemorrhages and sepsis, which could lead to death.
“Abortion is not a method of contraception and it is everyone’s responsibility to educate teenagers so that they can decide on their destinies and be aware of the consequences,” he added.
The department of health did not respond to further questions by The Star by the time of publication.