21 February 2013

South Africa: Poor Conditions Violate Patients' Human Rights

Lusikisiki — Community members, health care staff and activists from this Eastern Cape village were up in arms about the poor conditions at the local Village Clinic.

The original clinic was closed down last year because the provincial Department of Health failed to pay rent for the property. A makeshift clinic has been opened in a cargo container at a nearby site but lacks even the most basic facilities such as ablution and running water.

"I don't like it. The clinic is in shambles and people have to stand in queues outside these tents waiting for consultations - there is no privacy, no toilets and no water," said a local community member, Mrs Mfolozi from the Hombe location who has been taking her granddaughter to the clinic for epilepsy treatment for the past eight years.

Not just patients are affected by the poor conditions at the clinic and health care staff are becoming fed up too. "I can only vaccinate 10 children a day because we do not have a refrigerator (vaccinations need to be stored below a certain temperature)," said a professional nurse at the Village Clinic who prefers to remain anonymous. "Consulting patients in these tents are stressful. It seems the Department of Health does not care about people's wellbeing."

Storage of medication is also a problem at the facilities and health care staff were dispensing more than a month's supply of antiretroviral medication to make space in their cupboards for the arrival of a new shipment of medication.

Sthembiso Mabasa working at the TB Care Association at the site said: "This is a violation of human rights and people are not supposed to be consulted under these bad conditions."

Activists are planning a "sit in" at the sub-district health offices if the Department of Health does not provide a speedy solution.

Tandeka Vinjwa-Hlongwane is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Lusikisiki in the OR Tambo health district in the Eastern Cape

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