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Tensions flare over poor service delivery in Mpumalanga

Parents with children who have TB face multiple challenges. (File Photo)
Written by Cynthia Maseko

Overworked nurses and frustrated patients recently squared off as part of a community dialogue as communities in Mpumalanga’s Piet Retief area continue to complain about poor health care service.

Clinic queue

The Amsterdam Community Health Centre does not have a functional clinic committee, alleges local government officials

Hosted by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and public interest organisation Section27, the recent dialogue brought together local politicians and community members to discuss health service delivery in Mkhondo Local Municipality.

According to the TAC, department of health officials were invited to the dialogue but failed to attend. The AIDS lobby has been receiving complaints about service delivery in the area for some time and has been communicating these to the Mpumalanga Department of Health via letters and in meetings.

Many of the issues discussed at the meeting centred on the rural community of Amsterdam’s community health centre, where day nurses say they attended staff shortages lead to long wait times for patients and poor service.

Recently, community members said a local elderly man spent seven hours in the queue before being attended.

Local nurse, Sibongile Zulu* said while she understands why the community is upset, she is tired of bearing the brunt of the blame for issues she feels she cannot resolve as a health worker.

“I understand why you are angry and don’t have faith in us anymore,” said the nurse, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Our clinic doesn’t attend only the Amsterdam community but others like Iswepe, Sheepmoor and Fernie.”

She admitted that frustration with the high patient load has led some of her colleagues to look for work elsewhere.

The Amsterdam Community Health Centre also does not have a functional clinic committee. Local Ward 5 Counsellor Sdudla Nkambule accused the current, two-person clinic body of being a “ghost committee.”

Litany of complaints 

[quote float=”right”]”Women who are the same age as me were told that we were ‘too old’ to give birth at the facility. At first, we thought it was just a joke”

“We know all the challenges because we all belong to the community,” Nkambule told OurHealth. “At least we are lucky to have such good infrastructure, but the problem is the staff attitude and waiting times.”

Nomvula Ngwenya, 33, says she has been on the receiving end of nurses’ bad attitudes.

“Last year when I was pregnant, myself and other women who are the same age as me were told that we were ‘too old’ to give birth at the facility,” she said. “At first, we thought it was just a joke until on our cards, it was written for us to go to the Piet Retief hospital to give birth.”

Nombuso Mkhwena, 24, works as a youth mentor as part of a local project. She alleged that nurses refused to give her mentee a pregnancy test.

“A nurse asked, ‘you are too young, why are you having sex?’” Mkhwena said. “She had to go an buy it from a private doctor.”

The community continues to complain about medicine shortages. Duduzile Ngwenya’s 13-year-old son suffers from epilepsy but cannot always find his medication at the community health centre.

Addressing medicine stock outs are among the TAC’s highest priorities in the province, according to the TAC’s Linda Mavuso.

“TAC will continue engagement with the department of health,” said Mavuso, who added that due to largely dysfunctional clinic committees, the advocacy group has begun engaging with communities directly. “If our demands are not met, we will take further action.”

*Name changed

Read more on Mpumalanga’s health crisis as part of Health’e News’ “Deadly debt” series:

About the author

Cynthia Maseko

Cynthia Maseko joined OurHealth in 2013 as a citizen journalist working in Mpumalanga. She is passionate about women’s health issues and joined Treatment Action Campaign branch as a volunteer after completing her matric. As an activist she has been involved with Equal Treatment, Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and also with Marie Stopes Clinic’s project Blue Star dealing with the promotion of safe abortions and HIV education.

1 Comment

  • It’s really sad that the most vulnerable members of our societies still bare the brunt of poor ,inaccessible health care services.Women ,children and the elderly should not be suffering in this age and time.South Africans let’s do a lot of soul-searching and act decisively for the good of our fellow brothers and sisters.

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