South Africa launches ATM-like vending machine to dispense medicines to patients with chronic illnesses such as AIDS, in a move to decongest public healthcare facilities.

Rebecca Palai withdraws her medication at an ATM pharmacy which allows patients with chronic illnesses to receive repeat medication within three minutes, in Alexander township, South Africa.
Rebecca Palai withdraws her medication at an ATM pharmacy which allows patients with chronic illnesses to receive repeat medication within three minutes, in Alexander township, South Africa. (Reuters)

South Africa is piloting a new system to deliver life-saving medicine to millions of patients in the country, in hope to reduce queues in the hospitals and clinics. 

The Right ePharmacy, as it's called, reads their prescription and dispenses their medication, and if patients need help, trained pharmacists are available via Skype.

Overcrowded facilities are among the challenges facing millions of people in South Africa who rely on medication. 

The new system involving mobile clinics is enabling patients to get their medicine more quickly and easily.

 "With the clinic, I used to arrive at maybe 6 or 7 o'clock in the morning. But look now, I just came and I'm already finished," said Mildred Majozi, a South African citizen, who has lived with a chronic illness for nearly a decade.  

"I was diagnosed with an illness and I am on treatment and I take my tablets daily. Everything is now going well." 

TRT World's Lynsey Chutel has more from Johannesburg.

Medical ATMs planned across the country

South Africa already has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world, and millions more need treatment for chronic disease like diabetes and hypertension. 

Millions still receive their medication for from the state. 

Funded by the local charity Right to Care, and the German and US governments, each Right ePharmacy cost around $700,000 to set up. 

Planned to be placed in shopping centres and open seven days a week, four centres are set to open in Johannesburg, with more planned for the rest of the country. 

Hundreds benefit from ATM clinics

This pilot centre alone has already helped 5000 patients.

"This system eases the burden on the public health system," said Ian Sanne, the CEO of Right to Care. 

"Every patient that is adherent, that has got a successful treatment outcome, for us, is a success. But it also enables an expansion of the total capacity to address the HIV epidemic."

Source: TRT World