Mandela’s legacy flatlines

2014-07-19 00:00

NELSON Mandela’s legacy is ailing and almost forgotten at a disused clinic which the statesman opened 16 years ago.

While South Africans celebrated his memory with philanthropy yesterday — three nurses staffing the Embo Clinic in Nhlazuka huddled in their offices — hospital beds surrounding them cold and empty.

In 1998, the former president opened the R3 million sponsored clinic, which was handed to the Department of Health to staff and maintain.

The fully equipped centre was hailed as a bastion of hope for the neglected community, who were forced to travel to Pietermaritzburg and Durban for medical care.

Sixteen years on, the clinic is a shadow crippled by the malaise of neglect, understaffing and underfunding.

The dim lights reveal the building’s decrepit and stoic halls, the walls showing a latticework of cracks.

The medical centre is limping, providing only basic primary healthcare services with a skeleton staff.

Weekend Witness can reveal:

• A doctor visits the clinic only once a week.

• The mortuary is not in service, with thermometers reading 20 degrees.

• The X-Ray department is not in service.

• The labour, pre-natal and post-natal wards are not in use.

• Fully equipped dental suites are not staffed.

• The lion’s share of patients are sent to Pietermaritzburg’s Edendale Hospital.

A hospital insider, who could not be named for fear of reprisal, said that a handful of sisters ran the clinic.

She said that most patients who required medical care were transported elsewhere.

“If they come here we will usually just wait for the ambulance to come and get them. All of the wards are closed and we don’t use them,” she said.

The problems that existed when Mandela gave his speech of hope continue to plague the community, underscored by a jaundiced public health sector.

“When I visited Embo in 1995, we discussed the serious lack of health facilities. I learn that people had to go more than 100 kilometres to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital for treatment. I heard how many people grew more ill and even succumbed to illness because of this distance and lack of money for transport. We resolved then that we would tackle the problem head on,” he said.

“Today, the Embo Community Health Centre stands as a proud landmark shoulder to shoulder with the Ngilanyoni and Nhlazuka Mountains. The patients who are already visiting the centre are only the first of many, many people who will benefit from the health care it brings,” Mandela said.



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