"When it rains or when the weather is bad the mobile clinic does not come," says Mandisa Mbali from Reeston in East London.
Mbali says many residents in Reeston rely on the mobile clinic as their only option to access healthcare. The mobile clinic treats over 1,300 patients a month in Reeston alone. It also services Thembalethu, Khayalethu, Rayna's Farm and Dice.
The clinic is meant to visit Reeston once a week, but residents say they often go weeks without treatment if the weather is bad. To travel to the nearest clinic in Mdantsane costs R40. "Sometimes people have to hold onto their pain until the day the mobile clinic comes again. Many people here are not working so people default on [antiretroviral] treatment," says Mbali.
Mbali and several other residents are demanding that government build them a new clinic. "We are suffering and feel like we have been neglected by government. We have already given up now. When you have any kind of medical emergency, you have to cough up money from your own pocket."
"We plead with our government to come and intervene in Reeston. We need community caregivers," Mbali says.
Caroline Gqala, who is community leader, says they have been asking for a clinic for years. "I have an epileptic child at home, and last week he had a seizure. I just stood there hopelessly until he became okay by himself. I am not employed and only rely on a social grant," she says.
Gqala says for serious emergencies, she has to travel to the Empilweni Gompo Health Centre about nine kilometres away. This costs up to R300 by meter taxi. Gqala, who is on antiretroviral treatment, says she has defaulted because she often does not have money to pay for transport to other clinics.
Eastern Cape department of health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said government had no plans to build any clinics this year. "People will have to hold onto the mobile clinic for now," he said. "We will try and improve the mobile service and make sure it goes frequently to Reeston and not only once a week. Maybe a new clinic will be considered in the next financial year."