Original Research

Assessment of medicine stock-outs challenges in public health services

Sibusiso M. Zuma
Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review | Vol 10, No 1 | a578 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/apsdpr.v10i1.578 | © 2022 Sibusiso M. Zuma | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 July 2021 | Published: 31 January 2022

About the author(s)

Sibusiso M. Zuma, Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Essential medicines are important in the provision of healthcare services. In order to promote effective management of diseases, essential medicines should be consistently available at various healthcare service points. However, in several parts of South Africa and other African countries, there are challenges with essential medicines provisioning, as evidenced by public health sector stock-outs occurring when patients visiting the healthcare services do not get all the medicine prescribed for their health conditions. This research investigated the problems involved in the provision of essential medicines in order to propose strategies that will reduce medicine stock-outs.

Aim: This study aimed to investigate the problems involved in the provision of essential medicines within the district healthcare services in order to propose strategies to promote reduction in medicine stock-outs.

Method: A qualitative exploratory research design was utilised. Data collection was carried out through semi-structured interviews with pharmaceutical managers identified as information-rich participants, as they have first-hand experience in the provision of essential medicines. The data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: The study identified the various aspects including inadequate appointment of post-basic pharmacist assistants and manual medicine stock management systems have a negative impact on medicines provisioning in the public health sector. Rural health facilities experience more challenges with essential medicines provisioning.

Conclusion: Based on the challenges identified, the study concludes that a comprehensive strategic framework should be implemented including placement of Post-Basic Pharmacist Assistants in the primary healthcare facilities and deployment of electronic medicine stock management system to facilitate consistent provisioning and availability of medicines in particular for the rural health facilities.


health services; essential medicines; medicine supply management; primary health care; medicine stock-outs


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