CLINICS in the Cofimvaba area are failing the people they serve due to a shortage of drugs and staff, outdated equipment and poor, run-down facilities.
Some clinics do not have access to water and electricity, or even a working telephone to call an ambulance in an emergency.
This was revealed in a damning report compiled by the provincial legislature’s health portfolio committee last week.
The clinic inspections in the Chris Hani district by Eastern Cape MPLs comes ahead of the “Taking Legislature to the People” initiative in Cofimvaba next week.
Most of the 10 clinics visited in the area, which serve a population of roughly 50 000, only have two professional nurses and a seasonal doctor on staff.
Roads leading up to more than half the clinics are in such poor condition that some patients fail to reach these medical centres.
The inaccessible roads also hamper drug deliveries, while ambulances often get stuck on the way to dropping off patients.
Now the portfolio committee wants the department of health to show in 20 days’ time how it plans to fix the problems.
Health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said yesterday that because the clinics were built in rural areas, problems would constantly emerge. “But the water and electricity issues cannot be blamed on the department. It is not our mandate to supply such services,” he said.
Kupelo said although such services were not the department’s responsibility, it had provided water tanks and solar power systems to the clinics.
He said the drug shortages were a result of maladministration at the Mthatha Drug Depot and by managers at the rural clinics.
“The problem is two-fold. There is stock at the depot but clinic managers wait till the 11th hour to order,” he said. “Then you have the corruption and poor management at the depot. We are working on these problems.”
At the Tsakana Clinic, near Cofimvaba, a general assistant – hired months ago – has failed to pitch up for work.
The Magwala Clinic is short of consulting rooms and the labour ward is often used as an emergency and trauma room.
“Conditions of clinics and their ineffective resourcing does not correspond to the genuine commitment of the department to do good by its plans for the … revitalisation of primary healthcare,” the detailed report reads.
Portfolio committee chairman Mxolisi Dimaza could not be reached for comment.
DA health spokesperson and portfolio committee member John Cupido said yesterday the department needed to start getting the basics right. He questioned the department’s ability to roll out the National Health Insurance scheme if the institution failed to run small, rural clinics efficiently. “The clinics offer ground-level treatment. By not getting it right we are putting more strain on hospitals, which can barely manage as it is. If the department fails to run these clinics, how can we entrust them with the big hospitals,” he asked. — firstname.lastname@example.org