Ailing Limpopo clinic places strain on residents

Residents in Ga-Pila, outside Mokopane town in Waterberg District, Limpopo, are frustrated with the Sterkwater Clinic’s inability to provide adequate healthcare services. Reports indicate that the clinic has been facing persistent issues, with medication shortages and malfunctioning equipment. 

*Sy Thobela, a hawker and spaza shop owner supporting a family of seven says the situation places an additional financial burden on him, as he spends nearly half of his profits on chronic medication. 

“Since August last year, I have been buying my hypertensive medication from private pharmacies on the prescription of a private doctor. I make an average of R4 000 as a hawker, and spaza shop owner with a family of seven to look after. It means I spend more or less half my profit on my chronic medication,” he laments.

Debra Sella, a resident relying on ARV treatment, also shared her frustration. 

“I have gone to the clinic several times to collect my ARV treatment but I don’t get them all because some are in short supply,” she says. 

This situation has left individuals like Debra anxious and concerned about their health. Accessing consistent treatment is challenging and jeopardises the progress made in managing their conditions. 

Official opposition visits Sterkwater Clinic

Last month the Democratic Alliance (DA) visited the clinic on an oversight mission.

DA provincial health spokesperson, and member of the Limpopo Provincial Legislature, Risham Maharaj echoed the concerns raised by residents. 

“The clinic caters to about 60 patients a day. It is short of at least two professional nurses, two ward attendants, a staff nurse, a nursing assistant, a clerk, a data capture, a cleaner and a groundsman,” Maharaj says.

He says the clinic needs more equipment. “There is no incubator for newborn babies, no functional autoclave machine to sterilise medical equipment. There are insufficient batteries for the blood pressure monitor, hb machine and glucose machine.”

The provincial health department hits back 

Limpopo Department of Health (LDH) spokesperson Neil Shikwambana says there are measures in place to manage ARV treatment. 

“People get initiated on ARV medication by trained professionals who give much care to the process. It is unlikely something in the treatment could go wrong without being noticed, so the issue of shortages is not true,” says Shikwambana.

Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) spokesperson Xabisa Qwabe says although the government often denies the shortages, the situation on the ground is often different. 

TAC: Report issues

Qwabe says the TAC will continue to engage the government through evidence-based information gathered via the Ritshidze Project, which monitors 400 facilities in 27 districts and eight provinces. 

“We continue to raise these concerns in every platform where we get a chance, Patients must report such cases by calling, sms Whatsapp or Send A Please Call Me to our Stop Stockouts number: 084 855 7867,” she urges..

Shikwambana also refuted claims of staff and equipment shortages. “Sterkwater Clinic has three professional nurses who are midwives and one enrolled nurse assistant.” 

He also says Sterkwater Clinic does not need incubators because the clinic only deals with emergency deliveries. “Autoclave is there and functional,” he adds.

Unkempt grounds

Residents are also unhappy with the state of the clinic, saying it is not properly maintained. Paulina Ledwaba, a community leader says residents offered to clean the surroundings at Sterkwater Clinic but management refused.

“The grass is tall and generally the surrounding is not clean. People visiting this clinic always come back with packets of complaints, lack of medicines, long waiting hours, shortage of staff and a whole lot of bad news.

Shikwambana says cleaning the surrounding area at the clinic is being attended to. He says there were two cleaners but one retired earlier this year and there is one groundsman.

 “This clinic needs its own health care from the Limpopo Department of Health so it can give people good health services,” says Ledwaba. – Health-e News


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