Overworked nurses and frustrated patients recently squared off as part of a community dialogue as communities in Mpumalanga’s Piet Retief area continue to complain about poor health care service.
Hosted by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and public interest organisation Section27, the recent dialogue brought together local politicians and community members to discuss health service delivery in Mkhondo Local Municipality.
According to the TAC, department of health officials were invited to the dialogue but failed to attend. The AIDS lobby has been receiving complaints about service delivery in the area for some time and has been communicating these to the Mpumalanga Department of Health via letters and in meetings.
Many of the issues discussed at the meeting centred on the rural community of Amsterdam’s community health centre, where day nurses say they attended staff shortages lead to long wait times for patients and poor service.
Recently, community members said a local elderly man spent seven hours in the queue before being attended.
Local nurse, Sibongile Zulu* said while she understands why the community is upset, she is tired of bearing the brunt of the blame for issues she feels she cannot resolve as a health worker.
“I understand why you are angry and don’t have faith in us anymore,” said the nurse, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Our clinic doesn’t attend only the Amsterdam community but others like Iswepe, Sheepmoor and Fernie.”
She admitted that frustration with the high patient load has led some of her colleagues to look for work elsewhere.
The Amsterdam Community Health Centre also does not have a functional clinic committee. Local Ward 5 Counsellor Sdudla Nkambule accused the current, two-person clinic body of being a “ghost committee.”
Litany of complaints
“Women who are the same age as me were told that we were ‘too old’ to give birth at the facility. At first, we thought it was just a joke”
Nomvula Ngwenya, 33, says she has been on the receiving end of nurses’ bad attitudes.
“Last year when I was pregnant, myself and other women who are the same age as me were told that we were ‘too old’ to give birth at the facility,” she said. “At first, we thought it was just a joke until on our cards, it was written for us to go to the Piet Retief hospital to give birth.”
Nombuso Mkhwena, 24, works as a youth mentor as part of a local project. She alleged that nurses refused to give her mentee a pregnancy test.
“A nurse asked, ‘you are too young, why are you having sex?’” Mkhwena said. “She had to go an buy it from a private doctor.”
Addressing medicine stock outs are among the TAC’s highest priorities in the province, according to the TAC’s Linda Mavuso.
“TAC will continue engagement with the department of health,” said Mavuso, who added that due to largely dysfunctional clinic committees, the advocacy group has begun engaging with communities directly. “If our demands are not met, we will take further action.”
Read more on Mpumalanga’s health crisis as part of Health’e News’ “Deadly debt” series: