Cape Town - Instead of being places of healing, clinics across the Mother City have become battlegrounds where armed gangs, hostage dramas, theft, vandalism and even murder have become commonplace.
It has cost the City of Cape Town more than R5 million in the past financial year to replace damaged infrastructure and provide additional security at its more than 60 clinics.
With the Lotus River Clinic forced to close and several others counting the massive cost of assaults, the city is looking at deploying law enforcement to clinics.
Alistair Arendse, of the Lentegeur Clinic in Mitchells Plain, described the vandalism there as “very violent”. “They come into the clinic and cut off the (wires) of the electrical equipment. Last month they came in and cut the Telkom lines. They even take the brass (fasteners) off the windows.”
Arendse said most incidents occurred when the clinic was at its busiest and the perpetrators either came in with patients or pretended to be patients. Recently, a man with a knife was chased into the facility.
“Some people are afraid to come to work,” he said, adding that there was no security at the clinic.
The city said there had been “dozens” of attacks on doctors and patients. In July, Dr Michael Aluko was shot dead outside a Khayelitsha clinic in a suspected hijacking.
Staff and patients were also threatened when gang members stormed into clinics in Ravensmead and Elsies River, brandishing firearms.
City Health has spent more than R150 000 on repairing infrastructure at the Lotus River Clinic. And despite spending more than R40 000 a month on security, the clinic had to close.
“This money could have been better spent on improving our basket of services to the community,” said Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for health.
The clinic has been closed since March, and patients have been redirected to the Klip Road Clinic, about 1.8km away.
Kashiefa Daniels said it was inconvenient and more expensive to travel there. She told the Cape Argus that her grandson, Fawaaz, needed to get emergency transport.
Van Minnen said while the closure was “not ideal”, there were plans to build a new clinic in Pelican Park. “The decision to close the clinic was not taken lightly, but ultimately the safety and personal security of our staff and patients is our top priority.” The Klip Road Clinic would also be renovated in this financial year.
Gangster-ridden areas such as Mitchells Plain, Hanover Park and Manenberg had been affected but Tygerberg sub-district had been hardest hit, said Van Minnen.
There had been two hostage dramas in Delft South and Bishop Lavis, as well as random shootings nearby.
Van Minnen said this made work difficult for staff, and created a real risk that patients would default on their treatment because of safety concerns. She said the city also received frequent reports of break-ins and theft of equipment. Often, these would affect the clinic’s water and electricity supply.
Van Minnen said the city was looking at ways to beef up law enforcement and to train staff in conflict resolution and other procedures.