050315. Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg. Brenda Mavimbela and Lucky Mthembu with their daughter Nonjabulo(6). They are using disability grant to buy medicine for their child and the medicine is too costly. Nonjabulo is disable following a negligence operation which she went through in 2011, her parents had to quit their jobs in order to look after her. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - The shortage of medical supplies has forced an unemployed woman to use her disability grant to buy medication from a pharmacy for her 7-year-old brain-damaged child.

Brenda Mavimbela, from Daveyton in Ekurhuleni, said she spent R450 from her child’s R1 330 monthly grant, which is the only income for the family of four. She stays with her unemployed husband and teenage daughter.

She said hospitals within her reach said they did not have stock of the Bio-baclofen tablets and Rivotril drops Nonjabulo needed. Bio-baclofen is a muscle relaxant and Rivotril is used to prevent epileptic fits.

“The grant is the only income I have. I have no choice but to use it to buy the medication because my child can’t do without it,” said Mavimbela.

She said her lack of finances also meant Nonjabulo didn’t get the required dose of medication.

“My daughter is prescribed two Bio-baclofen tablets but it’s so expensive that we can only give her one.”

Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital supplied Nonjabulo with the medication since 2011, but in March last year, it said it no longer had stock.

She then got it from Far East Rand Hospital for a few months, until they also told her they were not able to stock it.

“Now I have to get it from Clicks (pharmacy),” Mavimbela said.

The young mother left work to look after her child, who has been sick since the beginning of 2010.

The child has been in and out of hospital since then, and Mavimbela said there was nothing doctors could do to improve her condition.

“The medication is the only thing that helps her keep her food down, and it helps her to sleep,” said Mavimbela.

Nonjabulo’s health began deteriorating when she was about 2 years old.

“She was perfectly fine, but one day she just started crying uncontrollably, so we took her to Far East Rand Hospital,” said Mavimbela.

Doctors there initially said she had a bacterial infection, but after a week of taking the prescribed treatment, her condition worsened.

After numerous tests, it was discovered that Nonjabulo had meningitis.

Mavimbela said her daughter underwent several operations to drain the fluid from her brain and to insert a pipe into her stomach to prevent her from vomiting.

But, she said, Nonjabulo’s health only deteriorated further and she sustained brain damage in the process.

“Doctors sent her home and prescribed her the medication, which is the only thing that helps now,” said Mavimbela.

DA MPL Jack Bloom said the poor medical supplies in Gauteng hospitals had severely affected the Mavimbela family and countless other people.

“It’s a tragic story, and there are many others who suffer in silence because of poor medicine supply in Gauteng hospitals. Patients who cannot afford to buy medicines have to go without, with severe effects on their health.”

He said the situation could be rectified if the Gauteng Department of Health paid all its medical suppliers on time.

The department did not answer calls from The Star or respond to e-mails asking for comment.

Department chokes lifeblood of business

The Gauteng Department of Health owes medical suppliers R412 million in fees. This is despite the Gauteng treasury placing the department under administration and spending R90m on consultants to manage its finances.

DA MPL Ashor Sarupen said the finance committee had found the department had invoices outstanding for up to five years.

Just in January, the provincial government had R618m that had not been paid to suppliers within 30 days.

“The Gauteng provincial government is still struggling to pay suppliers within 30 days - severely damaging the cash flow of many small, black-owned businesses and causing many others to go insolvent,” said Sarupen.

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