Snake-antivenom shortage bites South Africans

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
17 Apr 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP

Despite the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla’s assurance that the shortage of snake-antivenom in South Africa is being monitored, the battle to find antivenom after a man was bitten by a Cape cobra last week show the extent of the problem.

It is unacceptable that the country’s five-year supply has been depleted to the extent that doctors and veterinarians have to struggle to save their patients in the event of a snake bite.

The DA will submit written parliamentary questions to the Minister to determine what has been done to address the National Health Laboratory Service’s (NHLS) shortage and which health facilities and practitioners have been supplied with antivenom.

The NHLS efforts to lay the blame on loadshedding and “difficulty in sourcing the material” shows the Department’s chronic and systemic failure to manage and maintain basic health care services, as well as their inability for long-term planning and identifying problems.

The antivenom shortage did not happen overnight. Why did the Department and the NHLS not flag the declining stock before it became a crisis and take appropriate steps to avert it?

The antivenom shortage is as good an augury as any of South Africa’s future, should the ANC government manage to bulldoze the unconstitutional National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill through Parliament.