Outrage at clinic ‘treating two patients in same room at same time’
Pretoria - Residents of Vlakfontein in Joburg have expressed outrage at a local clinic’s practice of attending to two patients in one room.
They said this compromised patients’ right to privacy.
This emerged yesterday during a two-day hybrid public hearing hosted by the Gauteng legislature’s standing committee on petitions.
The patients’ privacy concerns had been raised with the provincial Department of Health as far back as 2015.
Community activist Phumzile Mtshali said residents bemoaned the fact that the department made several empty promises to address their plight.
In a petition submitted to the committee, Mtshali said: “The clinic is very small and compromises patients’ right to privacy since two patients are attended to at the same time in the same room.”
The clinic was understaffed and on rainy days most patients had to wait outside as the facility’s waiting area was too small, she said. Patients would wait for longer than three hours before it was their turn for medical attention.
The clinic’s corrugated-iron containers, sheltering patients in long queues, were leaking and needed urgent renovation, she said.
In 2015, department officials promised a formal structure would be built to extend the clinic but to date nothing has been done, despite the approval of a budget for the project.
The department’s head of infrastructure, Dr S’fiso Maseko, acknowledged that the residents’ grievances were long-standing. It was “true that the clinic is small, however, the space is being used optimally to meet the required standards”.
“The room where two patients are seen at the same time is for patients with chronic diseases and is designated for chronic club patients. All patients from this club are stable and generally don’t need (medical) examinations.”
Maseko said those patients mostly came to collect medicine, however, they were encouraged to ask for privacy should that not be the case.
Committee chairperson Ezra Letsoalo said privacy infringement concerns were crucial. People living with illnesses such as HIV would like to have “a level of privacy”.
“There is social stigma attached to some disease profiles and people would feel more comfortable if privacy was, in a way, assured,” he said.
Regarding the staff shortage allegation, he said the clinic had more than 50 staff members: 42 community health workers, eight professional nurses, a facility manager and a doctor.
Patients were often discouraged from going to the clinic at the same time, especially in the morning, to avoid a cramped waiting area, he said.
Maseko said: “We are finalising some specifications to assist with the waiting area.”
Also, a process was under way to replace the containers’ leaking roofs.
Maseko said the promise made in 2015 to build a clinic was inhibited by the fact that suitable land for construction could not be identified. “The land that was identified was found not to be suitable for building,” he said.
Letsoalo slated the department’s responses on the basis that they emanated from a report compiled in 2019. “In essence, what it would mean is there hasn’t been any movement … ”