Lack of youth-friendly clinics in KZN a major turnoff

Lack of youth-friendly clinics in KZN a major turnoff
As Youth Month comes to an end in South Africa, many young people feel they aren't able to access healthcare services in various parts of KwaZulu-Natal and often experience discrimination. (Photo: Freepik)

The lack of basic healthcare services that are youth-friendly frustrates young people from Hammarsdale in eThekwini. They claim they often face discrimination that threatens their fundamental rights.

“Our clinics aren’t youth-friendly. We are trying to take responsibility for our health, but when we visit clinics, they ambush us,” said one of the young people.

South Africa marked the 46th anniversary of the 1974 Soweto students’ uprising a few weeks ago. These youngsters stood up for their education rights. It’s now important to highlight the barriers preventing young people from using community healthcare services. 

Section 27 of the South African Constitution says everyone has a right to health care services, including reproductive healthcare services. Section 27 also says medical treatment should be available to everyone.

In 2010/11, the National Department of Health initiated the Youth Friendly Services (YFS). The department declared that treating all young people with dignity and respect was their No 1 priority.

Attitudes of healthcare workers

Studies have shown fear of judgment by healthcare workers prevents youth using health services in South Africa. South African youth need sexual and reproductive health information and services but its currently not met.

Bongiwe Phakathi said young people should be able to access all the information they need from clinics. She also fears having to approach health care workers for info because she feels judged.

“We still have a generation of health care workers who grew up during a time where it was considered taboo to discuss certain topics with children,” she said. 

“Times have drastically changed, and it’s time for them to adapt,” Phakathi added. 

Ideal world vs reality

A report written by World Health Organisation Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, highlights everyone is entitled to control their health and body. This includes accessing sexual and reproduction information services free from violence and discrimination.

The report added that stigma and discrimination hurt people’s physical and mental health. Discrimination in health care is unacceptable and is a significant barrier to development.

Stigma and discrimination hurt people’s physical and mental health.

Most clinics’ health care workers are ‘local resistants’. This creates a sense of familiarity between the patient and worker. It is another barrier for youth in this area. Phakathi said it’s difficult for them to speak to their parents about specific health issues, and it’s no different at the clinic.

“Speaking to the healthcare workers is the same as speaking to our parents. It’s risky because they don’t adhere to doctor-patient confidentiality. They are more likely to run to our parents than give us the necessary information,” she said.

Another young person, Sindiswa Gumede, added her voice to the discontent.

“When you go to the clinic for help, the healthcare workers judge you and are very rude. Which makes us hate the clinic, and I am one of them,” said Gumede.

Bridging the gap

Touch iFuture is a community youth-oriented organisation that advocates for the rights of the youth. It acts as a bridge between the clinics and the youth.

Zwelithini Mabaso, Touch iFuture’s Director, said: “We host youth dialogues and gather information about the problems youth encounter.” 

Mabaso added that they meet with relevant stakeholders and clinics and use this information to address the concerns of the youth. – Health-e News


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