Depaliseng sub-district in Gert Sibande has five healthcare facilities: three community health clinics (CHC) and two clinics.

The two nearest hospitals are in Standerton, 80km away and Heidelberg Hospital, in Gauteng, which is 30km away.

The sub-district has a population of 42 390 and an HIV-prevalence of 60% – is the highest in the province.

“Recently we found out that the only 24-hour community health clinic in this sub-district has reduced its operating hours to 12 hours due to shortage of staff and resignations,” said community member Vusimuzi Mlombo.

“We requested that the sub-district should have a hospital, but the population size means we do notnot qualify for a hospital.  The rural nature of the area makes it hard to recruit Health Care Professionals to work here.”

The average number of patients seen by a professional nurse at Siyathemba community health clinic in the past year was 85 patients, more than double the guideline of 40 patients per nurse per work day. This is proof of the shortage of staff at Siyathemba clinic, which is considered the main reason for changing to being a 12-hour facility.

Fikile Zwane, who is seven-months pregnant said: “The community cannot access emergency medical care at night no matter how serious their medical condition is. Pregnant women and injured patients have to travel long distances at night to access the services either in Standerton or Helderburg hospitals. We are not complaining about our clinic staff because the nurses are treating us with care and respect. But what we need is the district to provide our clinic with more professional nurses so that it can operate 24 hours a day.”       

Sindiwe Zitha* a professional nurse at Siyathemba clinic said:  “For nurses and other health care professionals to work and stay in this area, the department needs to improve the working conditions, give staff proper accommodation, decrease work the number of patients per nurse and improve infrastructure, especially for Siyathemba clinic.”

This sub-district was in need of a 24-hour health care facility, she said.

*Not her real name

Cynthia Maseko is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Gert Sibande health district in Mpumalanga.