Health workers have found a new use for the ubiquitous WhatsApp group: they use it to source out-of-stock drugs. Academics investigating "stock-outs" at public health facilities in the Eastern Cape uncovered a "thriving parallel economy in medicines supply". Rebecca Hodes‚ from the University of Cape Town (UCT)‚ said: "When a clinic was running low on a particular drug or a piece of equipment‚ the staff member tasked with managing medical supplies would contact a staff member from another clinic — often via WhatsApp — and ask if they could ‘lend’ supply." "Healthcare workers used personal resources to tap into these networks‚ including personal cellphones and airtime. This practice of sharing essential medicines happened ‘all the time’‚ according to the head pharmacist at a district hospital," she said. "Staff reported that through this exchange they were ‘almost always’ able to deal with the shortages they faced." Hodes‚ from UCT’s aids and society research unit‚ reports her team’s...

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