The community of Section L in Botshabelo in the Free State closed down their local clinic on Wednesday in protest of a staff shortage at the facility. They  locked the doors to Potlako Motlohi clinic with workers inside and camped outside waiting for the health department officials to address them.

Community members say it takes too long for them to get assistance at the clinic. They cite a high volume of patients and a shortage of health workers as the main reasons. 

Long waiting times

According to 41-year-old Sello Moketa who led the community in protest, normal waiting hours are over three hours. “It is not right that I can come here sick and be waiting for more than three hours before I can be helped. This should end and the government should employ more people,” he says.

Moketa says two nurses were helping over 200 people per day with some patients expected to return to the clinic the following day.

“Others like myself are supposed to come back many times because by the time I reach the front of the line the nurses are about to knock off,” he adds.

Another patient who supports the temporary halting of services is Monica Rasiile, 34 . She says workers were determined to serve them but there were too many patients. “We are many and we only have two nurses. This is hard on us and those two nurses aren’t enough to help us because a single patient can spend about an hour in consultation,” she says.

Urgent meeting

Meanwhile, a member of the clinic committee who called for the intervention of the department, David Molawa says the grievances of the patients are important and needed urgent intervention. “We have called those in the upper positions at the Department of Health, and both the ward councillor and council speaker to a  meeting with the representative of the community and workers.  Indeed our people are correct to seek more health workers,” he says.

Ward councillor Teboho Fantisi who was part of the meeting says the clinic was the only hope for the community and it needs more workers. “I have called the council speaker to see how our people get help here and we both agreed that the Department of Health should prioritise increasing workers.”

Speaking to Health-e -News, Mangaung Metro Council Speaker Maryke Davies agrees that the facility is short staffed. “The clinic serves over 5000 residents and it has  only two professional nurses. The community is correct in calling for more workers and it’s good that they did this [staged the protest] so well without any fight,” she says.

Davies adds that she will write to the Department of Health to call for the employment of more nurses at various facilities. “The problem of staff shortage affects the entire province and country. This needs the attention of the national department too, “ Davies adds.

Meanwhile the Free State health department acknowledges the fact of a shortage of health workers at clinics. Spokesperson Mondli Mvambi says: “The district manager and the primary health care manager were at Potlako Motlohi clinic and met with the clinic committee and the ward councillor.”

Mvambi explains that the department is facing budget cuts that prevents it from employing more nurses. 

Meanwhile, a nurse at the facility, Thembile Xhaka says shortage of staff at Potlako Motlohi means they have to do the work of two people. “It is too much work at this clinic. The facility is small but has a lot of patients.  I help three patients at once –  but not in the same room. I do more than I can and it is hard to continue,” he says.

The community allowed services at the clinic to resume after the meeting. –Health-e News