A day in the life of a clinic queue
The alleged death of an elderly man while he queued at Daveyton Clinic outside Johannesburg helped spark a July protest at the clinic but it is not the first time long queues have been in the spotlight.
As part of national facilities audits, clinics and hospitals are evaluated on waiting times. In 2011, facilities scored an average of 68 percent when evaluated on criteria including whether or not queue marshals were present, whether waiting times for elective procedures were monitored and that waiting areas had adequate seating or heating.
Later that year, Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced that shorter waiting times were among the areas selected for fast tracked improvement as part of the National Core Standards.
OurHealth sent Gauteng citizen journalist Mishack Mahlangu and Limpopo citizen journalist Suprise Nemalale to their local clinic to capture a day in the life of the queue.
Soshanguve Block X Clinic, Tshwane, Gauteng
Joined queue: 6:45 am
Average waiting time, according to patients: 5 hours
OurHealth joined the queue at 6:45 am and about 15 minutes later, security guards opened the clinics gates. Patients are issued with number tags before shuffling into a cramped waiting room in the clinic tucked inside a district customer care centre that, in its former life, served as a community hall.
Rihanna Lamola cradled her three-day-old baby as she waited and watched nurses enjoy a tea break.
“We wait for more than five hours to be attended in those backroom offices,” she told OurHealth. “The nurses enjoy their tea, gossiping and laughing without being informed that… it is cold out here waiting with a new born infant.”
By noon, only 15 out of 200 patients waiting inside the facility had been seen. Among those who had been seen was a 58-year-old woman.
“There is no privacy in this facility,” she complained. “Observation is done in a very transparent manner in a reception room nogal.”
If only she knew. On an inspection of the men’s toilets, OurHealth was shocked to find more than 1000 patients files inside the freshly cleaned bathroom.
Thengwe Clinic, Vhembe, Limpopo
Joined queue: 7:30 am
Average waiting time, according to patients: At least two hours
It takes about 30 minutes to near the front of the queue after OurHealth arrives at 7:30. Queue marshals hand out numbers and help triage and usher patients in as the line moves along.
Maria Mukununde is a patient at clinic and was there to collect her HIV treatment.
“I have been here before when my 12-year-old son was sick,” Mukununde told OurHealth. “It took me more than two hours to into the consulting room.”
“The wait is very annoying, especially when some us come early to wait when relatives and friends of nurses go through (faster),” she added. “I am happy that today we have someone to witness what we come across here at the clinic during our visits.”
Mukondeleli Nyaluvhani waits outside a consulting room and says that today, the clinic line seems to be moving faster.
“Today, I see things getting done very faster than other days,” Nyaluvhani said. “Maybe it’s because today we have visitors.”
As the day progresses, more patients stream in including Ndivhudzannyi Mudau, who arrived at 2:15 pm. By 4pm, Mudau was still waiting and remarks that the line seems to have slowed to a crawl.
When asked if nurses would be able to get through the remaining queue before the health facility closed, one nurse said that a shortage of staff coupled with emergency cases posed a challenge.
“We are having some emergencies at the moment with a pregnant woman,” said the nurse, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation. Despite having only two nurses left to attend the queue, she vowed to get through the line.
“This does not happen every day and all the patients will get help today,” she added.
But Ndivhudzannyi was doubtful.
This is not happening for the first time,” Ndivhudzannyi said. “I have been here at the clinic before and I had to go back home without being helped because of time.”
“They always come with excuses that they have an emergency whereas they are just lazy to help the patients, especially after lunch time,” she concluded.