Free State ARV sites to start new treatment cases

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bloemfontein - The Free State Department of Health has instructed 28 anti-retroviral (ARV) sites to resume new treatment cases as soon as the new drug orders are received.

Department spokesperson Elke de Witt said the clinicians and health care professionals were advised that strict criteria were to be adhered to in order to prioritise those patients with the greatest need.

The uptake of new patients will be strictly controlled against the availability of ARV drugs to ensure that those who are on treatment can be sustained.

"Clear clinical guidance will be provided per site on the rate of patient uptake and clinical discretion is to be applied," Ms de Witt said.

She said with the present backlog of 12 000 new clients, a cumulative head count was being estimated for drug needs between February 2009 and the end of April 2009.

Last year, the provincial department was forced to stop initiating new patients on ART with the exception of pregnant women due to a shortage of ARTs which came as a result of a lack of funds.

Responding to the provincial crisis earlier this week, Health Minister Barbara Hogan said she would continue to take urgent steps to ensure that any delay in ART initiation in the Free State was immediately addressed.

Minister Hogan said because of the exceptional circumstances the National Department of Health had been working tirelessly since late 2008 to secure further funding.

"I can assure you that it is the intention of the government, the National Department of Health Ministry and the MECs for health to ensure that all reasonable steps are urgently taken to ensure that priority is given to resuming patient initiation in the Free State, this is why we are actively seeking and securing additional sources of funding for this purpose," Minister Hogan said.

She said similar steps are also being taken in other provinces and additional funding was being sought through donors, adding that she was also in discussion with National Treasury in this regard.