Nurses at Free State clinic can’t treat patients when it rains

The small, dilapidated clinic serves residents of Intabazwe, near Harrismith - but it is overwhelmed and under-stocked

By Yamkela Mopeli

24 August 2022

Intabazwe Clinic, near Harrismith, Free State, floods ankle-deep whenever it rains. Photos: Supplied

Staff and patients at the Intabazwe Clinic near Harrismith, Free State, say the facility is badly run down and floods when it rains. Staff say they have to mop up water instead of treating patients.

“I never thought I would work in this dilapidated clinic. I grew up coming to this clinic with my mother and the conditions have not improved since then,” said a nurse at the clinic, who asked to remain anonymous.

The nurse said that the clinic is short-staffed, inundated with administrative work and that clinic equipment is frequently stolen. Many of the windows are broken and doors do not close properly. Most staff have to park outside the premises, which is not always safe.

Intabazwe Clinic serves the Intabazwe community. The prefabricated clinic was built about 50 years ago and designed to serve a much smaller population.

In 2016, Lesedi Clinic, the only other clinic in the community, burnt down. Since then, the workload at Intabazwe Clinic has doubled. Staff say they have pleaded with the health department to build a second clinic in the community to lighten their workload.

Lucky Tshabalala, a pharmacy assistant at the clinic, said they battle to disperse chronic medication on time because their orders are always delayed by at least a month. “In August we finally got the medication for high blood pressure (HBP) because that was our major problem in the dispensary. The last time we had a full package of HBP pills was in April 2022.”

Tshabalala said the clinic’s dispensary is too small and inadequately stocked.

Resident Fikile Dlamini has been bringing her children to the clinic for five years. She said she has to miss more than one day of work because they often get turned away because the clinic is too full. Dlamani said her six-month-old is yet to be immunised against measles because she can’t afford to miss any more work.

Girly Selepe, 51, said the clinic needs better security. Selepe said when the clinic is closed after a break-in, patients have to spend R30 on a return taxi trip into neighbouring Harrismith, where there are two public clinics and a public hospital.

When asked about the progress into the theft cases at the clinic, SAPS spokesperson in Thabo Mofutsanyana district, officer Mmako Mophiring, said, “People tend to open cases, relax and leave everything to the police. It is their responsibility too because the burglars are known or suspected by the complainants.”

In August 2019, Gertrude Letooane, then DA councillor for Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality, visited Intabazwe Clinic and found dozens of patients standing around outside waiting to be helped. She said patient files were stacked in the waiting area. “Apart from it being a fire hazard, these files contain personal and confidential information and should be secured,” she said.

Letooane noted that the clinic was “totally overcrowded” and “severely understaffed”.

“The nurses personally hand out medicine to the patients after each examination, causing a slowdown in the amount of patients seen daily. There is a dire need for a social worker in the area, but such requests fall on the deaf ears of government,” she said.

We sent detailed questions to the Premier’s spokesperson Sello Pietersen on 11 August and a follow-up email the next day. We messaged provincial health spokesperson Mondi Mvambi on 15 August, who responded to us, saying the district director was looking into our enquiry. We sent a reminder of the request again this week to which they are yet to respond.