Long tea breaks by nurses plague Soweto clinic

2015-05-05 16:23

Johannesburg - Long tea breaks and an overwhelming number of patients flocking to the Chiawelo Healthcare Centre in Soweto contribute to the clinic's inefficiency.

These are some of the reasons Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu heard on Tuesday morning while on a surprise walk-about at the Soweto clinic.

Many of the patients she spoke to complained of waiting for more than an hour while nursing staff were on a tea break.

One such patient was Nancy Dlodlo, 56, who works as a night duty cleaner at the University of Johannesburg.

"I arrived here at 07:45 because I came straight from work. I knock off at 06:00.

"I arrived, got registered, then they took me to go get my temperature taken and after that I've been sitting waiting since around 10:00.

"It's half past 11:00 now and we haven't been told anything, all that we know is that they are all [nurses] are on a tea break. How can a tea-break be an hour and a half? You see it's not fair."

She said she was going to have less time to sleep once she eventually arrived home.

Dlodlo has been troubled by stomach pains for about two weeks but dreaded having to come to the clinic because of the treatment that patients received from staff, she said.

"Luckily I decided to just come today and I find out the MEC is here. I was so lucky.

"When it comes to the ballot, it is hard for us to vote for the whites because we want black people to do well. But we are abused and taken for granted.

"When black people are in power, especially women, they think they're in heaven or something," she said referring to the nurses' attitudes towards patients.

(Pictures: Mpho Raborife, News24)


Mahlangu said the attitude civil servants had was not only in institutions but in management as well.

"To change people's attitude is going to take a very long time. We must not get tired of driving the message over and over [again].

"My understanding is that we exist [as a department] because there are patients who are sick, and we are here to look after them. We can't be a source of pain [for them]," she said.

"It is going to take time because people have gotten used to doing things the wrong way."

Another major problem faced by major clinics such as the Chiawelo Healthcare Centre was that people from other neighbourhoods outside the area preferred to use the centre as opposed to one in their own neighbourhoods.

The centre has 13 departments serving patients suffering from chronic diseases, maternal care for pregnant women, children's care as well as general and or minor sicknesses among others.

There are about 16 healthcare professionals serving the constant flow of patients walking through their doors.


Sixty-five year old pensioner Theresa Ngcobo who resides in Rockville, a different neighbourhood a few kilometres Chiawelo, says she prefers this clinic.

"I come to Chiawelo because the clinic in Rockville has no doctors and it’s always full of pregnant women."

She comes to Chiawelo once a month, consults with a doctor and receives her arthritis medication.

She arrives at the clinic around 08:00 and says it can take about two hours of waiting before seeing a doctor or a nurse.

The centre's committee chairperson S K Mathibeli told Mahlangu that some of the patients were being dishonest.

"I'm telling you what I know not what I hear. I have been working in this clinic since May 4 1996.

"I've got experience with patients, they arrive here at 11 o'clock. Then at 11:10 they say 'Kudala ngi la' [I have been here for a long time]."

Another patient told Mahlangu he was suffering from sugar diabetes and came to the clinic for medication but was treated harshly by a nurse who described him as irritating and accused him of wanting free things.

"When I got here I told the nurse that had sugar diabetes, then she said 'people with chronic diseases are irritating why do they come here?'"

Mahlangu and the clinic's senior staff held a meeting with the man and the said nurse which the media was not allowed to be part of.

An investigation into the allegation would be held, Mahlangu said.

Among staff's attitude towards patients, other problems identified on Tuesday morning included a shortage of staff and a shortage of prescribed medication.

"We found there is a miscommunication between what is on contract and what is being prescribed by the doctors," Mahlangu said.

A plan of action would be rolled out to address the immediate issues, she said.

The longer term problems would need to be included in the department's budget vote speech in June, she said.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  health

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