They did this to accommodate those who are unable to attend the clinic between 7am and 4pm because of their jobs and to eliminate the long queues in clinics. They also open on weekends to for those who can’t collect their medication during the week, especially ARVs.
Nosipho Khumalo, who attends one of the local clinics, welcomed the longer hours: “I’m happy about the extension of working hours in clinics because this means we don’t have wake up before dawn to go to the clinic anymore.”
Kholiwe Phakathi also said it made life easier for her: “I appreciate the fact that they have extended working hours this is going to help us. I’m a domestic worker and I work everyday then knock off at five, so coming to the clinic every month to get my treatment was a challenge.”
She also said her employer had a problem with her taking a day off once every month to go to the clinic but now she can go after work or on the weekend.
But Busisiwe Mlambo (not her real name), a nurse in one of the local clinics, said the extra hours were a strain on staff: “We are over-burdened. There’s usually one person working in each department and it gets difficult for us to work effectively.”
Her view was supported by another nurse who said the extended hours meant that nurses didn’t “get enough time to rest anymore because we get called to come and work when off duty”.
Patient Maria Dladla added that, despite the longer hours, patients still had to wait a long time to see nurses as the clinics were short-staffed.
Meanwhile, Phumzile Thela (not her real name), a general assistant in a local clinic, said patients were told to come to the clinic with an exercise book which then became their file.
Mthokozisi Ndaba said: “We are told to buy exercise books and we don’t have money, this is not good at all.”