South Africa: Patients At a Knysna Clinic Wait Outside for Hours to Get Medication

Health department says it could soon be using a nearby church hall to dispense medication to prevent patients crowding at the clinic's gates

"I rush to stand here early in the morning so I can get a [placement] number, because if I get here after everyone, I will be forced to come back the following day," says 60 years old Kenneth Thorne from Hornlee, Knysna.

Thorne joined dozens of patients in line outside the clinic in Hornlee this week. Many patients have been complaining of waiting in large groups outside the clinic with no adherence to Covid-19 precautions.

Thorne visits the clinic monthly to collect his medication. He says that if he is not in line by 7am, chances of being helped that day are very slim. "We push each other at the gate outside. No one cares about wearing masks and we only get sanitised when we are about to go inside. We are at risk of infecting each other here," says Thorne.

Patients say that they wait in line before the clinic opens. Once inside, they are seen by a nurse and then told to go back outside to wait for whatever medication needs to be dispensed. "We are not even given chairs. Everyone passing sees us standing. We end up sitting on the grass," says Thorne.

The Western Cape Department of Health's Nadia Ferreira said that the department is aware of "the challenges faced by the community". She said the department was negotiating with the Anglican Church to use its hall as an alternative site to distribute chronic medication and other services.

"Due to Covid-19 protocol we are unfortunately only allowed to accommodate a limited number of people in the building. We have ordered benches and gazebos that will greatly improve the current situation," she said.

Ferreira said patients are being encouraged to only come to the clinic 30 minutes before their appointments to avoid having large groups of people outside. "Our staff regularly remind patients to wear their masks and to maintain a physical distance."

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