The multimillion-rand health clinic built in Colchester three years ago is only open for four hours a week – only on a Friday. Unless the poor people and their families of this community time their illnesses perfectly, they are forced to find transport to a hospital or clinic in Port Elizabeth, which is 40km away. It is beyond many people’s means in this extremely poor community to travel this distance, especially if one takes into account that the government has failed to maintain any form of public transport between Colchester and Port Elizabeth.

As a member of the Legislature responsible for my constituency — which includes Colchester — I have drafted questions to the MEC for Health, Sicelo Gqobana, about the maladministration of this clinic. The MEC, government and the community needs to understand that primary health care first and foremost sets out to ensure the equitable distribution of health care to meet the main health problems of all communities. Clearly this is not the case if certain privileged communities have access to clinics for nine hours seven days a week and others only four hours one day a week. The Department of Health must ensure that the Colchester clinic is prioritised to become fully functional to deliver the service this community deserves.

The government is gambling with the health of individuals in this community. I know the ANC will not agree, but let me remind the rulers of the province that for primary health care to be truly classified as primary health care, it must be provided equally to all individuals irrespective of their gender, age, colour, urban/rural location and social class. If this cannot be done, the ANC is failing our people.

There is a shortage of 16 000 nurses in this province. No wonder nurses and clinic sisters have to move from one community clinic to another to keep basic services going, no matter how marginal. Before government officials and cronies changes their priorities from political jockeying in the run-up to the ANC national conference and leadership showdown to practical and effective governance, our people will continue to suffer.

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