Concern at shortage of oral contraceptives
Women have been advised to consider using alternative contraceptive measures, including: an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD), which is inserted into the uterus (womb); a subdermal implant; a contraceptive injection; or condoms.
National Health Department spokesperson Foster Mohale said low stock at facilities was the result of a previous tender for the contraceptives having lapsed at the end of September.
The new tender was awarded in October.
“Provinces usually keep the buffer stock for three months, and this process makes provision for the transition between the tender periods.
“Unfortunately, the new company that was awarded the tender has a delay in having the new stock cleared from the quality assurance process,” he said.
It was envisaged that the stock would be available at the end of this month, and would be sufficient for the next six months, Mohale added.
The department has experienced low stock levels since January.
“Every woman needs to be counselled before receiving a contraceptive method. Depending on the other medical conditions and reproductive health needs, possible side effects are discussed with individual patients,” he said.
Provincial health department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said the department received its stock from the national Department of Health, which had contracted a new service provider.
“The national department is currently in negotiations with an alternative provider, and will inform the provinces.
“We apologise for this in- convenience and advise our female clients to consider making use of alternative contraceptive measures in the interim while the matter is receiving attention,” Van der Heever said.
Treatment Action Campaign deputy general secretary Vuyokazi Gonyela said it was unacceptable for there to be no oral contraceptives due to poor management between tenders.
“In the context of already highly restricted family planning choices in the public sector, women are faced with even fewer options.
"Women who have chosen to take oral contraceptives may likely have done so because they are unable or unwilling to use other forms, like the injection,” Gonyela said.
The TAC was concerned that women who were currently on the Pill would simply not use contraceptives until the stock shortage was resolved, putting them at risk of unplanned pregnancy.
“We fear more women will not be given enough information on available prevention choices, and more women will be offered the injectable contraceptive Depo Provera. This has been shown in a 2016 review, to possibly make it up to 40% easier to contract HIV.
“This is a violation of wo- men’s right to access reproductive health care,” Gonyela said.