Mofolo Hospice ‘€“ juggling life and death

Sister Sibongile Mafata shakes her head: ‘€œThe introduction of antiretrovirals has really played a major, major role. We do have patients who walk out of here being much improved.’€


Last month, the hospice got a new lease on life when it moved from its corrugated iron structure to a new brick building in Diepkloof.


For Mafata, who has been with the hospice since it started nine years ago, the move is something akin to the end of an era. Starting out with two nursing sisters and 40 patients, mostly with cancer, the hospice has mushroomed to a staffing complement of 20 and over 500 patients, mostly living with HIV.


‘€œIt definitely feels like the end of an era. When we started in 1998, we didn’€™t have patients that were admitted. It was just the two home-care sisters that were going out.


‘€œSo, this building looked quite big because we were not utilising it. But gradually, with (the) increase of patients, and increase of staff this building has become so small it’€™s unbelievable. And then, we don’€™t have adequate privacy for our patients,’€ recalls Mafata.


In the old premises, a partition divided the men from the women. Privacy meant pulling a curtain around one person’€™s bed.


‘€œYou find that you have a very terminal person next to someone who is still a little bit conscious and it becomes traumatic to that person,’€ explains Mafata.


The new premises in Diepkloof boast improved ventilation and side wards for terminally ill patients as well as a paediatric unit.


‘€œPresently, with these over 500 patients, I’€™d say 90% is HIV/AIDS patients and then, just about 10% cancer patients,’€ explains Mafata.


Mofolo Hospice also cares for certain terminal chronic conditions such as end-stage renal failure or diabetics who are already terminal with bed sores.

Mafata explains that terminal illness is often misunderstood to mean that a person is almost dying while palliative care is misunderstood to mean a process of preparing a patient for inevitable death. But that’€™s not the truth, she asserts.    


‘€œYou’€™ll find that some people would say, ‘€˜we don’€™t want to take our family member to hospice because when the person goes to hospice, it’€™s the end of the person’€™. It’€™s not true.


‘€œSome people who come here come because they were not getting proper care at home. They were not getting medication at the correct time. They were not eating proper food. So, you find that their conditions deteriorate. But we’€™ve had miracle stories where we had terminal patients coming out of this in-patient unit, going back home,’€ she smiles.


The majority of hospice’€™s patients are cared for at their homes. About three kilometres from the hospice, Mthokozisi Ximba stays with his grandmother.

Both the 25-year-old’€™s hands are wrapped in clean, snow white bandages.

He had gangrene ‘€“ a condition where death of tissue occurs in a part of the body ‘€“ and had to have his fingers removed.


He is also HIV positive and spent two weeks at Mofolo Hospice last December.      


‘€œThey helped me. I couldn’€™t even walk. I had lost weight. Now I am picking up again,’€ he says proudly.


Ximba has also started antiretrovirals and is also taking tuberculosis treatment.


From a former life of crime, drugs, prison and illness, Ximba is on the mend, and community care worker Phindile Nhlapo visits him every week to check on his progress.


‘€œHe never gave up on his life. I like a patient who gives you hope. It boosts your morale. It’€™s very nice,’€ says Nhlapo.


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