Gqebera Clinic in Walmer Township vandalised
Patients who arrived at the Gqebera Clinic in Walmer Township on Monday morning were turned away after thieves vandalised the property and made off with all the clinic's ARV stocks.
When the patients arrived, they were advised to access medical help from the 14th Avenue Clinic in Walmer or clinics in Central.
Eastern Cape department of health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said the announcement was made after the Gqebera Clinic was badly vandalised.The clinic's doors were locked on Monday morning with a few patients still seen milling around outside.
Sicwetsha said the department would only be able to start cleaning operations when police had completed their investigation.He said apart from the ARV stock being taken, the damage was extensive.
Security officers at the scene said they were not sure how the criminals had accessed the clinic.
"The clinic was badly damaged and the computer system and plumbing have been destroyed."The criminals used fire extinguishers to vandalise the building," the officer, who declined to be named, said.
Health MEC Helen Sauls-August said criminals were infringing on the rights of patients.
She said: "The destruction of health facilities is a setback in government's efforts of bringing primary healthcare facilities [to] communities.
"The criminals are taking away the rights of residents to have access to quality healthcare."
The community structures in the Nelson Mandela [metro] must rise against this criminality and protect healthcare facilities from criminals.
"It can't be correct that [a] few criminals are allowed to destroy clinics and the community doesn't do anything."
Police called on Monday on anyone with information on the break-in, theft of ARV medication and vandalism to get touch with the Walmer police station.
Police spokesperson captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said police were investigating charges of housebreaking, theft and malicious damage to property.
Sicwetsha said it was not clear exactly when the break-in took place but that it happened sometime on Sunday.He said the facility did not have 24-hour security.
Theodorus Nogampule, from the Treatment Action Campaign, said ARVs were a target of thieves because people smoked the drugs to get high.
The blow to the community comes just weeks after a group of Walmer Township women told of their struggle to access ARV drugs.
As a result, the women started their own support group led by Nomasomi Mbambo, 35.
The women complained that clinic staff would often close the doors as early as 9am and if people had not started queuing from 5am there was a good possibility they would not get their medication.