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Township hospice eases burden on state health sector

Written by Ramatamo Sehoai

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in a recent radio interview, said medical advancements in the fight against HIV was resulting in fewer deaths attributed to the virus.

Hospices are closing and undertakers are running out of business, he said – all of this being generally good news, but not the real life experience of many. Certainly not for Grace Marutlulle, founder of Alexandra Hospice and Rehabilitation Centre.

With only 30 beds for her many chronically ill patients, the space she has is not enough to fill the need and her heart breaks regularly when she has to turn people away.

Marutlulle welcomes patients from Alexandra and surrounding areas, and those in her care suffer from diabetes, cancer, strokes, high blood and HIV/AIDS.

“Alexandra is one of the townships severely plagued by life-threatening diseases and hospices play an important function to ease the burden on the primary health care sector. This is aggravated by poverty and unemployment as patients on a social grant programme default in an effort to make their money go further in cases where entire families depend on them,” she said.

‘Using school premises’

Currently, Marutlulle is using school premises as the base for her care centre. But the lease contract will be expiring soon. Fortunately, she has secured municipal land where she plans to build a bigger hospice, enabling her to have more staff and equipment to cater to more patients.

There is nothing more satisfying than to see somebody arrive here almost dead and to then recover. It has always been my wish to make people well.

“My only challenge now is to raise funds and build the structure,” said the 78-year-old granny, who in 2001 retired as a lab technician at Sizwe – Rietfontein Tropical Disease Hospital.

She already used a large chunk of her pension to start the hospice and has no regrets.

“There is nothing more satisfying than to see somebody arrive here almost dead and to then recover. It has always been my wish to make people well.”

Steven Makhubela, once a patient at this hospice, said he never believed that he would enter and eventually recover.

“I arrived here in pain and without hope. Today I’m happy, I’m stabilised and taking my treatment at home. They helped me to adhere to my treatment and ensured that I see the doctor on time,” he said proudly. 

About the author

Ramatamo Sehoai

Ramatamo Sehoai is an award-winning community journalist from Alexandra Township who curved his health journalism at FrayIntermedia and Mail & Guardian. He has written for numerous publications as a freelancer and won fellowships. Ramatamo is one of our Gauteng based citizen journalists and hosts a weekly talk show at Alex FM. He is also studying towards a BA Honours in Journalism and Media studies at Wits University.