Editorial | Department must act on clinic safety

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Protest action by angry residents and criminals has pushed Nelson Mandela Bay’s already shaky health services into a crisis.
And, sadly, it is the poorest of the poor who suffer the effects of these actions. The Herald reports today that clinics in at least four suburbs have been hit by either protest action or sheer criminality.
In Uitenhage, the Rosedale clinic was shut down by the community last week while Walmer’s Gqebera clinic is still out of action after being vandalised more than a week ago.
Since then – frighteningly – protesters have barred ambulances from entering Helenvale and Booysen Park.
It is bad enough that protest action closes a much-needed community service such as a health clinic. Denying access to an ambulance is even more serious.
The most recent incident, where a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth was denied access to an ambulance, could have been a serious medical emergency.
Fortunately a police escort was available, but this is not a permanent or ongoing solution.
We need increased security around clinics. The Walmer clinic, for example, is unguarded over a weekend.
It is high time the department of health recognises how serious this is for Nelson Mandela Bay.
Service delivery is not only about tarring roads and installing street lights, it is also about caring for the community through functioning health services.
Clinics must be able to fulfil their mandate to offer primary health care services to those who live nearby.
No one can dispute that the department of health is strapped for cash. This in no way, though, exonerates it from its responsibility to supervise its clinics.
It is all very well for health MEC Helen Sauls-August to say that “the community structures in the Nelson Mandela [metro] must rise against this criminality and protect health care facilities from criminals”.
Yes, the community does have a role to play, but the primary responsibility for the safety of both staff and patients must surely lie with the department itself.

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