The campus clinic at the University of Fort Hare in Alice has received no medicines since the end of April this year, the dispensary is nearly bare, and there has not been a doctor since 2016.
Students are forced to walk to town and queue for hours at the Victoria Gateway Clinic, or at the War Memorial Clinic, to be treated or collect chronic medication, causing them to miss out on critical lectures. This directly impacts on the academic success of students and the overall success of the university.
The external clinics are also taking strain as they have been equipped to deal with the influx of thousands of students that queue for medical attention.
The university-run clinic is small, staffed by a clinic manager and three professional nurses, down from six nurses in the late nineties, when there were half the number of students.
The ongoing staff shortages and almost complete absence of medicines, despite an MOU with the Department of Health, has resulted in important wellness programmes, such as HIV and diabetes, grinding to a halt.
The issues have been raised with the administration and the Dean of Students by both clinic staff and the Student Representative Council, but to date nothing been done.
The Dean of Students, Malinge Gqeba, has given his assurances that the paperwork has been completed for both the supply of medication and for the employment of a new doctor, and the arrival of both is imminent; promises the students say they have heard before.
The university “ambulance” has become a delivery van, with no medical or emergency equipment on board and no qualified Emergency Medical Services professional staffed to drive it.
This situation is simply unacceptable. The health and well-being of students on campus is a major contributor to their academic and social success, although the administration on campus clearly does not seem to think so.
I have scheduled a meeting with Vice Chancellor, Sakhela Buhlungu, to discuss the issues facing the clinic and the wellness of students on campus.
Every person has the right to access adequate medical care and we will be monitoring the situation on the Alice campus closely to ensure that in issues of wellness, no student is left behind.