Chronic Patients Battle Side Effects As They Resume Treatment

Defaulting chronic patients are now faced with a dilemma of resuming treatment or not- as some now face the side effects. Image by Wikipedia

BY NQOBILE BHEBHE | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | NOV 17, 2020

The easing of travel restrictions due to reduced COVID-19 local transmissions has enabled patients with chronic illnesses to finally access their medications. Unfortunately for some, resuming medication is proving harder than anticipated.

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) The relaxation of COVID-19 travel regulations came as a relief for Siboniso Masuku, 65, who has diabetes.

For the past 11 years, Masuku, from Magedleni, ward 1 in Gwanda North has been on medication and accessing her dosages at Gwanda district hospital, 23 kilometres away.

Silikwe Clinic which is about 14 kilometres away from her village rarely has stocks for her ailment.

With the advent of COVID-19 and a cocktail of restrictions, Masuku and others ran out of medication mid-April.

“Before COVID-19 I made sure to have two months’ medical supplies,” says Masuku.

“By mid-April I had exhausted my medication. I could not travel to Gwanda to restock and started defaulting as a result.”
Masuku, a chronic patient

According to Masuku, she could not get any meaningful assistance at Silikwi clinic. Community health workers would advise her to “manage her condition using home remedies.”

Prior to the outbreak her children in South Africa would also send medication as it is cheaper and always accessible, she says.

Travel restrictions have been lifted. Masuku and other patients with chronic conditions can now travel to health institutions to get medical supplies and care.

However, Masuku says this has brought with it a new challenge. Since she resumed medication in October, she vomits regularly.

“When I started medication I was told by the doctor not to skip. She gave the reasons for total adherence. COVID-19 forced me to skip and stop having my shots.”

Anelisiwe Msebele, a village health worker says they are facing a serious health crisis owing to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Travel restrictions saw a number of chronic patients defaulting on their medication. Image by Africa Renewal

“Villagers are suffering. A majority of those we are attending to, long stopped medication and we fear they will continue to face challenges when they resume.”
Anelisiwe Msebele, a village health worker

“Defaulting patients with chronic illnesses are in great danger. We always tell them (patients) that once diagnosed with a chronic disease that calls for a lifetime medication and it has to be religiously followed.”

Although a report by Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) does not make reference the coronavirus pandemic, it reveals that owing to inaccessible health institutions, many people with chronic illnesses end up defaulting on their medication.

“About a quarter of people in Matabeleland South still have to walk more than 10km to access the nearest health care facility which tends to compromise their access to health. An additional 34 percent live at least five to 10km away from the nearest health facility,” it states.

Ward 1 councillor Stanford Nkala says since the lockdown was introduced he has received countless reports of patients failing to access medication.

According to Nkala, lack of health facilities in his ward worsened the situation.

“I might not have exact figures of villagers defaulting on medication but during community meetings we hear a lot of these issues,” he says.

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“What is of great concern is that it's the elderly who seem mostly affected. They could not travel to restock in Gwanda.”

“Now that they can travel, complaints of some of form of resistance or their system being immune are common.”

Villages under his ward are Masholomoshe, Nkazhe, Matshiya, Matshetsheni and Magedleni.

Nkala says COVID-19 has laid bare the urgent need for clinics in villages.

“This is a wake-up call to everyone. We should be having a clinic and health workers close by all the time. If there are no funds for permanent structures mobile clinics could work.”
Stanford Nkala, Gwanda ward 1 councillor

Another diabetic patient from Matshetsheni, Siphilisewe Dlamini says she will not resume her medication.

“I stopped taking Ozempic semaglutide injection shot. I could not restock due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Am too old now (79). I don’t want to burden my frail body with more illnesses.”

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care chairperson, Ruth Labode, a medical doctor by profession says the Covid-19 lockdown has had mixed consequences to patients living with chronic illnesses.

“Some patients do experience side effects after a prolonged period of not taking medication while others don’t show symptoms,” she says.

“However, it's best for people to fully adhere to medication prescriptions. COVID-19 had unintended consequences. Am aware that some people in rural areas could not access clinics due to travel restrictions.”

“On that I really urge government to build more clinics or deploy mobile clinics to deliver drugs for various ailments and ensure logistical supply chain of medicines on both the public and private sector during the COVID-19 era and beyond.”

The World Health Organisation recommends that health facilities should be at most five kilometres away from members of the public for better health outcomes.

Common amongst the chronic disease are Hypertension (commonly known as blood pressure), Diabetes and Asthma.

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Side effects, Chronic patients, Lockdown restrictions, Gwanda, COVID-19

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