Residents who have to attend Nomzamo Day Care Centre after the Ikhwezi clinic, the biggest clinic in the Nomzamo area of Strand, was gutted by fire last month say they struggle to access services . Arson was suspected in the fire.
"It's hard," sighed Novasi Dibela. "You wake up early and you will find people already in a queue. I was attending Ikhwezi clinic and before I can get treatment, I was told that I need to open a new folder and start afresh with the tests."
The centre opens at 7:30am and closes at 4:30pm on weekdays.
Security staff at the clinic did not allow GroundUp to enter with a camera, citing patient privacy. Inside, it was crowded with people waiting to be attended to.
A nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said staff are overworked. "It is difficult attending to emergencies without other patients complaining that they have been here for hours. We stopped taking normal breaks because the place is overcrowded. Sometimes the queue goes across the street."
"I have been here since 6am and I only opened a folder. I have not been checked by a nurse," a patient told GroundUp just after 9am.
"They are separating those who used to attend Ikhwezi from those who attend here. Ikhwezi patients get assisted last," said another patient.
The City of Cape Town has sent mobile clinics to clinics in Somerset West and Gordon's Bay, but people have to take taxis (R12 one-way) or walk 7 to 8km.
Councillor Simthembile Mfecane said he visits regularly to check the situation. "People wait outside to be attended to because it is full. It might take two to three years to have Ikhwezi clinic fixed."
Sithembiso Magubane of the Western Cape Department of Health said, "The workload at Nomzamo Community Day Centre has increased since the torching of Ikhwezi Clinic. There has been an increase in patient numbers and the facility is still gathering data regarding increased patient count. The facility has recruited more staff through a locum agency."
Ikhwezi served well over 5,000 patients on ARVs. Asked what alternatives were offered to people who had been collecting medication for HIV and TB, Magubane said: "Local NGOs have assisted by allocating additional staff and a temporary structure for ART (anti-retroviral treatment) clubs at Nomzamo CDC."
Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, said, "Staff from Ikwezi have been redeployed to clinics in the area."
He said there was no time frame yet for opening Ikhwezi. "Many alternatives have been offered. We have distributed 9,500 pamphlets in the area directing patients to alternative City Health clinics."
Badroodien said no-one had come forward with information as to who was responsible for the Ikhwezi fire. A reward of R50,000 had been offered.