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State of SA Hospitals: A view of clinic facilities in Helderberg

Published Apr 25, 2022


Cape Town – South Africa ranks 49th out of 89 countries on the 2019 Global Healthcare Index. Although the ranking is relatively low, it is the highest-ranked African country. When the pandemic hit South Africa, it nearly brought the public health-care system in the country to its knees.

In its State of South African Hospitals series, IOL investigates the country’s hospitals and clinics. This is an in-depth view of the clinics in Helderberg in the Western Cape.

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On Thursday, March 31, the IOL team in Helderberg made its first stop at Ikwezi Community Health Centre in Lwandle, Strand. The facility, ravaged by a fire in 2019, had airtight security at its gates and did not allow our journalist and photographer inside the facility.

Our team settled outside the facility, speaking to patients going in and out of the clinic. We spoke to Nadia Blankies, a Lwandle resident and TB patient at the clinic.

Ikwezi Community Health Centre in Lwandle, Strand. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

Blankies, who was visiting the clinic for her TB treatment and her three-month-old daughter’s routine check-up, said she had not experienced any significant issues with the clinic.

“Just that last time I was here for my TB treatment, which I will finish on April 17. I asked for porridge and food in March, and they did not have any. But my problem was that they were giving other people food parcels, but I did not get anything, not even a fruit.

“I told them that we all have TB and that they must provide us with food equally. I sometimes could not drink my treatment because I could not drink it on an empty stomach. My journey through TB was not easy for me. But besides that, I have not had any issues with the clinic,” Blankies said.

The team then visited Somerset West Clinic and spoke to a Malawian patient who identified herself as Esther. Esther said that she had been waiting in the queue for about 6 hours to see a nurse for what she described as an “emergency”.

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Patients waiting outside Somerset West Clinic. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

“Besides the long queues, as a non-South African, I have not had any bad experiences with the clinics. I have not felt like I was being treated differently because of my nationality. The only problem I have is the long queues and spending the whole day here just to see a nurse, even in emergencies,” she said.

Our team’s final stop was Sir Lowry’s Pass Sun City clinic. The clinic was quite empty. In fact, too empty, as we could easily gain access to the facility without any form of security check, not even for sanitiser.

Outside Sir Lowry’s Pass Sun City Clinic. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

The team was met by a few patients patiently waiting on benches inside and outside the facility. The nurses were apparently on a “tea break”.

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A 62-year-old diabetes patient said she had been waiting for her chronic medication at the clinic medicine dispensary for almost an hour.

“They are on tea break now. I usually know not to come around 11am to 12 pm because that is when they have their tea break. I just forgot today and came anyway, so I will just wait for them to finish because I am already here and cannot go back home just to come back again,” she said.

Sitting on a bench was 31-year-old Abraham, a Zimbabwean national with an eye injury, waiting for an ambulance to transport him to the Helderberg Hospital (HH).

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“It is my first time coming here. I have been here since 7am, and I am still waiting for an ambulance to transport me to HH. My situation is an emergency. I have an object inside my eye. I came here yesterday, and they told me to come today at 7am. So I have been waiting here for five hours, waiting for an ambulance.

“No one has come to update me on how far the ambulance is or when it will get here to pick me up. No one has even come to check up on me. I was just told to sit here and wait. And I have been waiting since.

Abraham was asked whether he had ever felt discriminated against at a public health facility because of his nationality.

“I do not think it is because I am a foreigner that I was made to wait. I think a South African would also be made to wait outside like I am. It is just how public clinics are. I honestly have not felt like I am being treated differently because I am a foreigner,” he added.