Pilot project a huge success

A clinic catering for street people in the CBD is growing monthly.
A clinic catering for street people in the CBD is growing monthly.
Cape Town Central City Improvement District
Standing in line at a public clinic can be daunting for many street people, with many reporting being passed over in waiting lines or patients moving away from them because they are seen to be wearing old, dirty clothing.
But a pilot project offering care to specifically street people in the CBD has seen a clinic growing from strength to strength.
The Chronic Medicines Dispensing Unit was created in partnership between the department of health and the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), and sees street people able to access monthly medical care from a clinic at The Carpenter’s Shop in Roeland Street.
Pat Eddy, social development manager for the CCID, says the idea was born in 2009 while attempting to address the health needs of people living on the street.
“Our CCID fieldworkers often experience difficulty in convincing their clients to attend the community health clinic and then, even when they do, the clients would frequently abscond before receiving the necessary treatment and appropriate medication,” she says.
“The community health clinics are frequently overcrowded and understaffed which then often results in a disagreement between a street person who is not keen to be there in the first place and an exhausted health professional – the result of which is the street person leaving the facility before receiving the necessary treatment.”
These concerns about the health of street people were again raised at the Street People Forum in 2014, which led to the establishment of a pilot Chronic Dispensing Unit (CDU) at The Carpenter Shop from the beginning of this year.
“This has also been vital to our own work at the CCID as our fieldworkers are now able to refer our CBD clients directly to the mobile unit, and a major coup for us to see this finally implemented.”
The clinic primarily addresses the need for vulnerable individuals to regularly receive their chronic medication, thus preventing deterioration or relapse in their medical conditions, Eddy says.
Patients can also get their blood sugar, blood pressure and HIV status checked.
“Something we would still very much like to see is for psychiatric medication to be made available at the clinic, as this would go a long way to assisting with the management of conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and other conditions that affect many street people and that, when left untreated, can lead to the display of certain types of antisocial behaviour on the streets,” she says.
The number of street people attending the unit increases monthly and in November forty six patients attended, Eddy says.
“If a homeless person requires hospitalisation urgently, the nursing staff of the mobile clinic are also able to arrange this. Since the commencement of the clinic this vital assistance has been utilised each month,” she says.
The CCID is hopeful that, with the increasing need being identified, the clinic will become permanent and even be able to increase the services it offers. “Ideally we would also love to see it running as a mobile unit across other venues in the CBD. In the meantime, it has also begun to offer focused care. In October, for example, the clinic combined with the TB/HIV Care Mobile Unit and concentrated on women’s health issues, undertaking pap smears and breast examinations,” she says.
It is hoped a women’s clinic and men’s clinic will be opened next year.
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