Community slams health plan

2019-11-26 06:00

Hout Bay residents picketed against the closure of the Hout Bay Community Day Centre (CDC) on Sunday 24 November at Karbonkel Road in Hout Bay.

Community activist Roscoe Jacobs says the violation of the human rights of the poor is just one of the reasons for the protest action.

The Western Cape department of health (WCDOH) is standing firm on the decision to offer basic health services only at the Hout Bay Community Day Centre (CDC), despite demands from Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu residents that it be made fully operational again.

In response to a lawyer’s letter – sent by Vernon Seymour of Lionel Cay Attorneys on behalf of the Hangberg community – Dr Beth Engelbrecht, head of the department, wrote that after extensive engagements with surrounding communities it became apparent the needs of the community could not be met with the established healthcare facility.

In the letter dated 13 November Engelbrecht wrote the department had come to the conclusion that the community would be better served in the long run with the construction of a new health care facility.

“The bowling greens site has already been identified for such a new clinic and the planning process to build is currently under way, however, it will take approximately three years to complete it once access to the site has been granted,” reads the letter.

In addition, the department also blames intermittent protests in the area for the facility’s closure.

“Many staff members, due to violent protests, have requested to transfer from the clinic or have resigned.”

Jacobs said claims that hospital staff were under threat during the most recent protests were fabrications.

“The protest on 17 September didn’t affect the staff’s or the facility’s safety. The department is using this as the reason when in fact it wants to create a crisis in health care services for it to fast track the Polyclinic at the Bowling Green. If the department took the safety of its staff seriously, why did the Du Noon CDC remain open during the violent Taxi Protest during the same period,” he asked.

In the meantime, residents will have to rely on the department’s provisional services plan announced shortly after the closure of the CDC on Tuesday 17 September following protest action in the area.

Basic health services resumed at the Hout Bay CDC on Monday 7 October as part of the WCDOH’s provisional services plan.

On Tuesday 12 November, the department sent out a public notice, announcing the opening of an additional CDC at 30 Victoria Avenue in Hout Bay.

“This facility is a fully functional CDC and provides a comprehensive package of medical care. The services rendered from Hout Bay CDC in Hangberg and Iziko Lobomi in Imizamo Yethu will continue.

“Available services include the collection of chronic medication for patients, screening for TB, HIV and chronic illness, health promotion and counselling,” the public notice read.

Patients were advised to book an appointment to reduce waiting times, but the public notice did say that walk-in patients were welcome to access the facility, but that they would be triaged for the required medical assistance or the appropriate referral.

At a public meeting held at the Hangberg Sport centre on Thursday 14 November, residents who had gone to the Victoria Avenue CDC said they had been told they would only be assisted if they had made a prior appointment.

“We were told walk-in patients would be welcome to access the facility, but when they did, they were referred to Lady Michaelis CDC. The hourly shuttle service provided by Healthnet for patients to Lady Michaelis has been cancelled since the opening of the Victoria Avenue CDC. Cash-strapped residents now have to pay for transport.”

People’s Post asked the WCDOH if patients were being referred to Lady Michaelis. In response, the department said that, at this stage, only patients requiring dental care were being referred to Lady Michaelis until dental services could be made available twice a month at accessible community service points in Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg.

Jacobs said residents were also unhappy with the low level of community engagement.

He said that in 2010, when the department first contemplated the need for a purpose-built health facility, the community was widely consulted. He said this time around, it was not the case.

Engelbrecht’s letter stated otherwise.

“There has been a long process of engagement in Hout Bay and the department has liaised with clinic committees and community leaders such as Mr Roscoe Jacobs.

“The matter has also been recently traversed by Mr Jacobs in the Standing Committee session for Health. The department has furthermore sent out various press releases on the proposed developments for health care in Hout Bay and its surrounds.”

Engelbrecht’s letter also pointed out that the Hout Bay CDC received approximately 4 500 patients per month and a approximately 2 250 patients attended the sister clinic at Imizamo Yethu.

“It stands to reason that the facility is overcrowded and no longer fit for its purpose,” the letter reads.

“Exactly,” said Jacobs. “If a fully functioning Hout Bay CDC couldn’t adequately serve the community’s health needs, how can the WCDOH expect that the Victoria Road CDC will?”

Natalie Watlington, the media spokesperson for the WCDOH, says all decisions were made in the best interests of the citizens of the whole of Hout Bay.

“We wish to thank the community for their patience during this time,” Watlington says.

V To book an appointment at the Victoria Road facility, patients can visit the CDC directly or call 021 790 1050.

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