Masiphumelele’s clinic unable to serve township’s needs

Calls for facility’s service and space to be expanded, but officials say this will be difficult

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Photo of Katie Williams
Katie Williams walks every month to the health facility in Ocean View to collect her diabetes medication. She wants her medicines to be made available at the clinic in Masiphumelele. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

Masiphumelele’s residents are demanding substantial improvements to the township’s clinic, which they accuse of being inadequate.

The township’s residents stand in line, often carrying their children on their backs, from as early as 6am, hoping to be served quickly when the clinic opens at 8am. If you arrive at 7am, it’s not unusual to have to wait until noon or later to be served.

The clinic was originally established to treat children. It then was expanded to manage HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, family planning, basic antenatal services and tuberculosis.

Facilities at Ocean View and False Bay offer more comprehensive services, but a return taxi trip to either of these costs R14. Alternatively it is a five kilometre walk to either. Patients need a referral letter if they wish to be seen at False Bay Hospital. And getting public transport to Ocean View is complicated. To do so you have to walk to the entrance of Masiphumelele, which can be kilometres uphill for many residents, and then wait for an Ocean View bound taxi coming from Fishhoek.

Community leader, Dumisani Nhlapho says the clinic has poor service and does not accommodate the community at large.

He says he does not understand why Masiphumelele has to rely on Ocean View for services. “Masiphumelele is a huge community, with more people than Ocean View and should have its own day hospital. There are a lot of sicknesses in the area especially with the area we call a wetland which is a health hazard. The community is over-crowded.”

Last Tuesday he went to the clinic. “Because they had not opened since Thursday, the clinic was full and people were standing outside. The weather was so cold and it was drizzling. People were standing outside waiting for the doors to be opened. They had been standing in the queue since morning.

“How do you expect a sick person to walk to the entrance of Masiphumelele to wait for the taxis coming from Fish Hoek to Ocean View hoping that there is one that is not full?” Nhlapho asks.

A resident who fetches her chronic medication for diabetes in Ocean View, Katie Williams, says she has been walking to the clinic since 2005. Williams aged 50 is unemployed and depends on grant money. She finds the taxis expensive, and it wastes too much time trying to catch them. Although she walks, she no longer feels safe because of gang violence in Ocean View.

She says she has asked many times if she can collect her medication at the Masiphumelele clinic, but is constantly told no.

Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli says the reasons for this situation are historical. “The [Masiphumelele] community size was originally smaller and the need was in Ocean View so that is where the day hospital was placed. The need in Masiphumelele emerged for HIV treatment so that was added to the clinic. The clinic is physically small and can’t accommodate additional services for adults at this stage,” he explains.

The Masiphumelele clinic has seven nurses, one pharmacist, a pharmacy assistant and one doctor. Interestingly the Ocean View facility, while having a bigger structure, does not have many more staff.

About two years ago community leaders proposed for the clinic to be turned into a day hospital offering more services. But Mamkeli says besides the existing clinic not having sufficient space for this, the space surrounding the clinic is too small for expansion. If additional land is found, funding to operate the larger facility would be required and this would have to come from the Western Cape Department of Health.

As for plans to expand the services of the current clinic, he says, “Residents do have access to the Ocean View Clinic in addition to the clinic in Masiphumelele. … City Health has planned for renovations to the [Ocean View] clinic which will include two additional consulting rooms and the expansion of the records room. The design and planning for this project has been budgeted for the 2015/16 financial year and the project is expected to be completed in the 2016/2017 financial year.”

But Nhlapho disputes Mamkeli’s statement. He says, “There is a lot of land in Masiphumelele that can be used to build a clinic because it is very essential for the community.”

TOPICS:  Government Health HIV TB

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