Makhaza residents protest at Matthew Goniwe clinic

| Joyce Xi
Residents of Makhaza complain of poor treatment at Matthew Goniwe Clinic. Photo by Joyce Xi.

Inadequate treatment, disrespectful staff members, and lost patient folders have become common at the Matthew Goniwe Clinic in Makhaza, say residents, who marched in protest on 16 October.

On Thursday, hundreds of residents and members of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) marched through the streets of Makhaza to protest about the Matthew Goniwe Clinic. This marked the third protest against the clinic’s services this year.

Patients complain of disrespect from nurses and receptionists, unexplained disappearances of patient folders, unsanitary toilets and consulting rooms, and long waiting times.

The first protest against the clinic, on 5 May this year, arose when the clinic’s pharmacy closed early, leaving about 20 patients without access to their HIV medicines. Since then, there have been growing complaints about a wide variety of issues at the clinic, in spite of promises made at a May meeting between TAC and clinic management.

At the march on Thursday, protestors met representatives from the City, ward councillor Danile Khatshwa and Khayelitsha sub-district manager from City Health, Dr Virginia De Azevedo, as well as the clinic’s committee chairperson.

TAC delivered a memorandum demanding improvements to clinic services, which was signed by all parties.

TAC’s Sonia Tombe organised the march in response to complaints received from the community and problems she witnessed directly in the clinic.

“When I was there, I saw that the nurses don’t know how to speak with patients, folders go missing, and the clinic is dirty. Doctors and nurses come to work if they want to, and if they don’t want to, they don’t.

When the pharmacy wants to close, they close and tell the patients they must come the following day,” she said.

Several community members spoke of nurses’ rude behaviour and poor medical treatment.

Nomaphoza Gulwna, a 40-year-old Makhaza resident, said she had undergone a pap smear after feeling lower abdominal pain. A nurse gave her a piece of paper with results of the pap smear but didn’t explain what they meant, she says. She still doesn’t know what the results were.

Constance Sinawo, 51, broke her leg and went to the clinic to seek help. “The people at the clinic told me to bandage the leg myself, even though they should be doing it,” she said.

When the leg got worse, she returned to the clinic. “The nurse said, ‘are you mad?’ and didn’t treat me well, so I decided to use another clinic,” Sinawo said. She was able to get her leg treated properly somewhere else.

Siyasanga Nkohla, a 20-year-old resident of Makhaza, who visited the clinic on Wednesday, said the nurses “have attitude and don’t attend to people properly”.

“They are very rude,” she said.

Several residents also cited problems with missing or misplaced patient folders, which are necessary for a patient to be attended to. This has prevented many patients from getting treatment.

Lucky Nzwane, 30, visited the clinic on Monday to get some stitches removed. He says he arrived at 8am, and the receptionist did not find his folder until 12:45pm. He left the clinic at 2:45pm.

“I must know that it’s going to be the whole day when I come here,” he said. “They told me to come back Wednesday, but I didn’t come. It would take too long just to get a date for the appointment.”

Nobathembu Hoyi, 54, said on one occasion she had waited three hours while staff looked for her folder, without success. “They told me I had to go home to bring my medications to show them. I came back 2 hours later and they said they found the folder. I wasted so much time,” she said.

Dr De Azevedo said that she acknowledged the protest and the recommendations made by TAC, and would work on addressing the concerns immediately. While some changes would take some time, fixing issues like sanitation could be quick.

The clinic has a new facilities manager, who has expressed willingness to cooperate and communicate more frequently with TAC about community concerns, says Tombe.

If the issues at the clinic are not resolved quickly, Tombe says, TAC will continue to push for change. “We will give them 14 days — if they don’t fulfill their promises, we will go back to Matthew Goniwe.”

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TOPICS:  Civil Society Health

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