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Cape Town - Khayelitsha doctors and nurses say they are no longer motivated to go to work, and have become “paranoid” following the killing of a colleague.
Some were so shocked after the murder of Dr Michael Aluko, 42, that they decided to stay away from work at the weekend, leaving hospital managers scrambling for more staff.
Aluko was shot dead on Thursday night in a suspected hijacking and robbery. His body was found on Friday morning in Zandvlei, opposite Macassar cemetery. He had bullet wounds to his back and left arm. This was just hours after he had left the Khayelitsha community health centre, in the middle of his night shift, to buy food at a nearby BP garage. He never came back.
The Nigerian-born doctor, who worked as a locum both at the clinic and Khayelitsha Hospital, was buried on Wednesday in Parow, and leaves his wife and two daughters.
A few hours after his funeral, staff at Khayelitsha health centre spoke of their anguish and fear, with many admitting that they were even suspicious of their patients, especially those who were involved in gang fights and other violent crimes.
A doctor who did not want to be named as she was not allowed to speak to the media said while she had always known about the level of violence in Khayelitsha, it “suddenly has become new”.
“It feels different even coming to work… every time I drive past the BP garage it feels like I’m going to see Michael. Somehow the whole thing still feels like a dream… a terrible dream. As doctors we deal with violence all the time… we stitch up patients with gunshot and stab wounds all the time, but it’s different when it happens to someone you know,” she said.
A nurse said staff had been constantly looking over their shoulders since the shooting, and were even treating patients with caution.
“This is so traumatic for most of us that even when you see a bloodied patient you now want to know what happened to him, why was he shot or stabbed… it’s a terrible feeling. We are here to serve this community, yet we are so scared even to walk around and help people,” he said.
A fellow doctor who worked with Aluko for about a year described him as a workaholic but a man who would do anything for his family.
He moved to Cape Town more than a year ago, from the Eastern Cape, and six months ago brought the rest of his family here. “He adored his children, and his wife. He always talked about them. We would tease him about his hard work and we used to tell him that he would die of a heart attack or stroke for putting his body under so much strain. He would respond that his children had to eat. Even on the day that he died, he had worked a 24-hour shift, starting with the day shift at outpatients,” he said.
Health MEC Theuns Botha said he was “shocked and saddened”.
Botha said the facility was aware of one locum doctor who had left the clinic upon hearing of the killing. “There is anxiety amongst some staff members but it is being addressed on an on-going basis and operations were not affected”. He denied claims that affected staff had not been counselled.
“An action plan is under way to increase police visibility and additional security measures,” he said.