Patients’ health in danger

…recovering drug and alcohol addicts sent home as centre battles financial crisis

Pascalinah Kabi

A NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisation specialising in rehabilitating drug and alcohol addicts, Thaba Bosiu Centre of Blue Cross Lesotho, was recently forced to release 30 patients before they completed treatment due to financial constraints.

The 30 patients were sent packing after the caterer engaged to provide meals for them informed the centre that with effect from Tuesday 2 October this year, they would stop supplying meals due to Blue Cross’ failure to pay them.

Blue Cross Director Thabo Mokhutšoane on Friday confirmed the developments in an interview with the Sunday Express.

“Very unfortunately, it is true that we were forced to send 30 patients home because we could not afford to feed them because we have not received our second quarter subvention from the government,” Mr Mokhutšoane said.

“We are struggling financially and the contracted caterer informed us that they would not continue providing meals unless they were paid.”

Mr Mokhutšoane said that Blue Cross’ predicament stemmed from the government’s delays in releasing the centre’s subvention and talks were ongoing with the Ministry of Health to resolve the matter.

He further said that the centre has been struggling to access its subventions for the last quarter of the 2017/18 financial year and the first two quarters of the current financial year.

The government allocated the centre a M6 million subvention (grant) in the 2017/2018 financial year which was to be paid in quarterly tranches of M1, 5 million each.

Mr Mokhutšoane said they had no choice but to send the patients home as they could not keep them at the centre without the food to feed them. He said this was an unfortunate development which had disrupted their treatment. He added that it was highly likely that the patients would regress into their old habits as they were not fully equipped to deal with the challenges they would encounter in society.

“Twenty-nine of the patients are locals while one is from the Gauteng province in South Africa. Disrupting a rehabilitation programme has dire consequences for patients because the programme is well coordinated and needs to be followed from the start to the finish to ensure its success.

“We had not yet taught them the skills to deal with the challenges in the outside world and it will be an uphill struggle for them to stay on course while we sort out our financial issues.

“It was not an easy thing for them to admit that they are addicts in the first place and to seek help. Once they have committed to a rehabilitation programme, it should not be disrupted because doing so can send someone back to a very dark place,” Mr Mokhutšoane said.

He further said that it would be difficult for some of the patients to recommit and return to the rehabilitation programme because some had taken leave days from their places of employment while others had shelved other commitments like their tertiary education to seek treatment for their addictions.

Besides the deleterious effects on the patients, Mr Mokhutšoane said the suspension of the rehabilitation programme had negatively affected their image as one of the respected centres for the rehabilitation of drug and alcohol addicts in the southern African region.

“Our image has been tarnished and we have lost the trust of our patients. It is going to be difficult to regain their confidence.”

On his part, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mole Khumalo, said he would meet Blue Cross officials tomorrow to discuss the centre’s problems.

Early this year, Blue Cross encountered similar funding problems which resulted in its failure to timeously pay the February salaries of its staff complement.

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