Loadshedding hits clinic waiting times

Patients say they queue for hours at Dunoon Community Health Centre in Cape Town

By Peter Luhanga

15 May 2023

Mavis Matomane says she queued for hours at Dunoon Community Health Centre. Photo: Peter Luhanga

Loadshedding is affecting waiting times at the Dunoon Community Health Centre in Cape Town, with patients saying they queue for hours and are still sent home without their medication.

Dunoon resident Mavis Matomane, 54, said she woke up early on Thursday 11 May to be at the clinic in time for an appointment made five months ago.

When she arrived at 7am, she joined a long queue standing outside in the rain. Matomane needs medication for arthritis and high blood pressure. She said the clinic was serving people who had arrived the day before but had not been seen to and had been told to return on 11 May.

She was seen by nurses for diagnosis after 11am and only left the hospital with her medication at 3pm.

Neliswa Bobotyana, who lives in Ibaleni informal settlement in the township, said she accompanied her boyfriend to the Dunoon centre on Monday 8 May. He was seen by a doctor and told to wait to get X-rays, but the X-ray facility closed while he was still waiting. On Tuesday his condition had deteriorated and she took him back to the health centre where he was told to open a new folder. He was sent back home and returned on Wednesday 10 May and was taken to the New Somerset Hospital where he was finally given medication.

Other residents have complained on a neighbourhood online group.

Western Cape Department of Health spokesperson Natalie Watlington said as a result of loadshedding and problems with the data centre in George, pharmacy applications for patient medication were offline on 10 May.

“Our pharmacist therefore requested patients to return the next day for their medication. We acknowledge that at times loadshedding may affect our phone lines and IT systems. It may take more time to draw your folder or process your details as a patient,” said Watlington.

She said on average 150 adults and 180 children arrived without appointments every day. This was on top of about 120 clinician appointments and 100 family planning appointments per day.

She said there were problems when patients who did not arrive on their appointment day arrived as walk-in patients on other days. There were an average of 80 missed appointments a day, Watlington said.

Watlington said patients sticking to appointment times did not need to arrive early. Waiting times differed according to the nature of the complaint and the treatment.