Long wait for health service

People standing in the queue last week.

Angry Mitchell’s Plain residents have drawn up a petition against Tafelsig clinic demanding better health services.

Among their complaints is that people, including seniors, have to wait outside the facility from 4am daily or they may not be able to see a doctor.

More than 300 people have signed the petition, which includes complaints that there is no shelter for residents who stand in line during the early hours of the morning, long waiting times, the slow system and having to see a nurse instead of a doctor.

According to the City of Cape Town an average of 323 patients visit the clinic every day. This excludes the number of patients who are coming to fetch medication only.

On Friday November 18 the Plainsman visited the clinic. By 6am more than 70 people were already standing in the queue. By 7.30am the queue had increased to more than 100 people, including sick patients, mothers with their babies, people in wheelchairs and seniors. At 7.32am the gates were opened by security and three Law Enforcement officers with a dog.

According to residents, the officers were not usually present at the clinic.

When Rachel Botha, from Tafelsig arrived at the clinic at 4.15am on Friday, she was first in line. “If you do not come early, then it will take ages for the doctor to see you – or you don’t see him at all because of all the people.

“During summer people have to stand in the sun and during the winter months they have to stand in the rain.

“Yes, they upgraded the facility, but what I can’t understand is that the condition and services are still the same,” she said.

Abdurahman Lucas from Tafelsig who started the petition, said he had recently helped a woman who had fainted while waiting in line. However, when he went to get a chair inside the clinic, he was reprimanded by a security guard. “I told the security guard what I was going to do and then he hit me with the baton.

“I left it and walked away. Then one of the nurses told me I am a trouble-maker. I then looked at the security guard and told him that it is because of him, that I am being reprimanded for the second time.

“He then hit me for the second time and that is when I defended myself,” he said,

Mr Lucas said this had happened just after Eid and he had had a knife and blade on him from the previous day’s ritual slaughter. “I don’t usually carry weapons, but I had these items because I am usually the person to slaughters the sheep. And I had videos to prove that the items are linked to the events of the previous day,” he said.

On Thursday September 15, Mr Lucas appeared in court on charges of assualt which were later withdrawn.

Mayoral committee member for health, Siyabulela Mamkeli, confirmed that the incident occurred and that the matter went to court. But, he added, the City had no record of the woman who had fainted. Patients who had been in line that day, however, assured the Plainsman that the incident had happened the way Mr Lucas described it.

Back at the clinic, Jasmine Arendse from Tafelsig said seniors had to stand in the queue, and were not called by the security to move to the front. “It hurts my heart to see the seniors standing in the queue in the sun and in the rain. The security and the staff do not care and are rude. The seniors have made a valuable contribution to our society, yet at a health facility they are not being looked after,” she said.

Eighty-year-old pensioner Jacqueline Taylor who goes to the clinic every month, said she had to wait in the queue despite her being a senior citizen, and despite her walking with the aid of a crutch. While standing in the queue, two women spotted her and told her to move to the front. With nowhere to sit, she had to stand against a light pole to support her back.

“I am told to stand in the queue and wait for my turn. But, I am old (and) I do not want to argue, so I will rather wait. They are very slow inside and there are times you have to sit all day in order to be helped.”

A frustrated Gregory Fox from Tafelsig said he arrived at the clinic at 4.30am and complained that the system was not working as people stood for hours outside and then also had to wait long periods of time once they were inside the facility.

“People have had enough with the poor services at the clinic. When you come to this clinic it is like they are doing us a favour – but it is our right to have access to health services,” he said.

Farouk Booysen, who goes to the clinic every month, said: “Normally when they are short-staffed, they expect the community to be patient. We will be patient, but do not treat us like dirt.

“On Tuesday I was at the clinic, there was one doctor. Strangely enough if the some of the staff members see that there is one doctor, they work even slower.

“For example, at the blood pressure section there will be one staff member for 100 people. This now means, your folder will take a half a day to be seen. When you ask reception what happened to your folder you feel like a burden,” he said.

After two hours in line, the Plainsman finally moved into the clinic around 8.30am – followed by the security guard.

Ten minutes later, patients who had spoken to us were apparently intimated. A woman who asked that her name not be published, said: “When the media left, the staff wanted to know who spoke to the media and what did they say. They also told the people, they must not complain because the services are free,” she said.

In response to questions posed by the Plainsman, Mr Mamkeli said the clinic operated from 7.30am to 4.30pm. He explained that patients who came in for repeat visits were given appointment dates and times and were not required to stand in line. He added that an appointment system was in place to address the waiting times.

Mr Mamkeli said there was no number system for pharmacy clients. “They have appointment dates and times and they bypass reception and go straight to the pharmacy to get their medication and leave the facility thereafter,” he said.

He added that two doctors were allocated for the Tafelsig Clinic daily.

Explaining the complaints procedure, he said all complaints were attended to and managed according to the City of Cape Town complaints policy, with complainants given feedback about the resolution of the complaint.