Clinic forced to close in violence

2015-11-17 06:00
Provincial health minister Nomafrench Mbombo visited Hanover Park and addressed residents after the day hospital had to be closed down during gang-related shootings in the area.  PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

Provincial health minister Nomafrench Mbombo visited Hanover Park and addressed residents after the day hospital had to be closed down during gang-related shootings in the area. PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

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Hanover Park residents have been urged to join hands with the police and law enforcement agencies while gang-related shootings continue in the area.

This was the plea by provincial health minister Nomafrench Mbombo, who visited the community on Tuesday afternoon last week after reports about threats to the local clinic.

Mbombo said she wanted to respond to the reports as soon as possible and show that “the department cares for the well-being of our staff as well as our patients”.

“We are here today so we may reach a solution to what is happening in the community. The ongoing shootings are not just something that affects a minority; it affects everybody,” she said.

Over the last few weeks the health department was forced to shut down operations at the Hanover Park clinic due to gang violence that endangered the lives of the workers and patients at the clinic.

“The safety of our carers and patients is our responsibility. Communities need to play an active role in fighting these acts of violence that plague society daily.”

Mbombo focused on the constraints between availability and accessibility in the community.

“At the moment we have facilities for our community, but it is not accessible. People are too afraid to leave their homes to receive treatment and this poses a huge problem. The pain that I have is that we have the service but people are unable to use it because they fear what’s happening outside,” she said.

Mbombo added that security at the day hospital “goes further than high walls and security. Our staff’s safety is being compromised.”

“Our staff are being threatened and they are scared to come to work now due to the shootings in the area. But they want to render their service, asking what will happen to the patients if they aren’t there to take care of them. At the end of the day even gangsters are patients when they come through the hospital’s doors,” Mbombo said.

Staff safetyDr Beth Engelbrecht from the health department agreed that the safety of staff was a big issue.

“Our nurses are always walking the extra mile. We want to also thank those who diligently come to work and remain committed,” she said.

Engelbrecht said the department also engaged with law enforcement and the police.

“But primary healthcare is integral to our communities. However, the shootings forcing facilities to shut down are driving us to not provide that service,” she added.

Staff at the Hanover Park hospital also aired their grievances, saying that fear has now escalated to anger.

“Staff are angry, because they want to know what is being done for them. We can’t deliver a service if we are fearful for our lives.”

Subdistrict manager Koena Nkoko said the issue had gotten out of hand “where we are now evacuating premises almost twice every month”.

“This has gone too far and our staff cannot take it anymore. Our staff are humans too and it’s difficult to provide quality service when you’re caught between gang crossfire,” Nkoko said. He added that residents were responsible for a safe environment as well.

“We had instances where police responded to a scene but then the community covered up for these gangsters,” Nkoko said, adding that staffwere now even lying to their families about going to work.

“They told me that their families are concerned about them coming into the volatile areas and working, but they want to continue their duties.”

Philippi police station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Desmond Laing echoed that for the community of more than 70 000 residents “security is not adequate”.

“It’s all good and well to have a protocol in place for a situation but if a panic situation is created and the security panics, automatically staff will panic too. Patients and staff feel unsafe too.

“A week ago we had a situation where gangsters were outside the gate after a member was stabbed. Staff refused to let them in and first called the assistance of the police but by the time police arrived the gate was already damaged,” Laing said.

Laing added that neighbourhood watches and street committees had since been established.

Ward councillor Antonio van der Rheede said that it was unrealistic to apply normal rules to an abnormal situation.

“Gangsters don’t think when they shoot. There is a huge gap in our community and I plan to address this by having a meeting with mothers and women in our community because they are the ones who can help,” Van der Rheede said.

Last week’s visit was one of many more in the community to follow, Mbombo promised.

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