7 February 2020
Frustrated patients have signed a petition over conditions at the Gugulethu Community Dental Clinic.
Among the complaints are a lack of anaesthetics and no oral hygienist on most days. As the clinic only accepts 40 people a day, patients say they start to queue as early as 4am. They say this exposes them to criminals.
When GroundUp arrived at 8am on Tuesday, people were being turned away because the daily quota of patients that could be seen had already been reached.
“I got number 52, so I was turned back. I arrived here at around 6:30am and I come from Philippi,” a woman, who did not want to give her name, told GroundUp.
Inside the packed purple waiting room, there were primary and high school children as well as elderly people.
Ndumiso Mzazi of the Movement for Change and Social Justice (MCSJ), an alliance of organisations aimed at improving health, safety and social services in and around Gugulethu, said absolutely nothing had changed since they staged a protest over conditions at the clinic in 2018.
MCSJ has organised a petition which had 66 signatories so far. “We will take this petition to the relevant people which includes, the Gugulethu police station and the health department. Something needs to be done, because people are suffering,” said Mzazi.
Connie Gcwabe, who arrived at the clinic at about 6am, said they needed police to patrol in the morning. “We get mugged out there, and some of the muggers are the same people who stand in queues, holding places for people. And we cannot continue paying people R30 and R40 to hold places in the queue and then people rock up any time they please.”
A nurse, who has been working at the clinic for seven years, said: “The reason we do not allow people to come in and prefer them to wait outside the gate is because back then when we would open the gate at 7am, before we start operating at 8am, you’d find that things inside the clinic are vandalised. People are smoking inside. Things like plants are stolen. So that is where the decision of letting people queue outside the gate comes from.”
The nurse said the clinic did not have a designated oral hygienist, partly because patients did not honour their appointments.
Spokesperson for the provincial department of health Monique Johnstone commented: “The Gugulethu Dental Clinic made the decision to accept 40 patients daily due to a national stockout of Lignocaine Adrenaline, which is the main drug agent used in local anaesthetic for dental treatments … The facility will be receiving their new stock by the end of the week which will result in an improved service.”
Johnstone said the clinic has two dentists on duty from Monday to Friday and an oral hygienist on Fridays, as well as an additional locum dentist on Wednesdays.