A former public hospital nurse has injected money from her pension fund to bring relief to the people of Atlantis, over 50km outside Cape Town, by opening her own primary healthcare facility to reduce the service pressure of her former workplace.
Olivia Pharo, 49, who worked at the Wesfleur Hospital for most of her nursing career, last month launched Sister Pharo's Clinic, a low-cost health facility. She has already seen over 700 patients walk through her doors.
"It is my goal to offer a one-stop service that speaks to the needs of the whole community from Atlantis and its surrounding areas. We offer consultation to the sick, child healthcare, women's health, minor trauma, occupational health services and also have a dial-a-nurse for frail care patients," she explained.
She has lived in Atlantis since the age of nine, but considers herself "soil from this soil".
Pharo, a mother of two, spent 24 of her 29 years in nursing at Wesfleur Hospital and credits it as making her the medical practitioner she is today.
Gang-related injuries putting pressure on service
"In line with the Department of Health's 2030 Healthcare Plan, it is difficult to adhere to the act due to injuries and casualties caused by gang-related violence taking preference over other casualties, ailments and medical incidents. My intention was thus to also bring some relief to Wesfleur Hospital's service pressure," she said.
She resigned from her position as assistant manager at Wesfleur because she "no longer wanted to work under those conditions" and knew she was ready to deliver a better service of her own without any constraints.
"With the burden of disease affected by crime and diabetes, it was difficult to promote healthcare with a more effective curative and preventative approach. I opened my own facility, because I wanted to offer comprehensive quality in affordable healthcare."
Initially backed by her pension fund, she has since been approached by an investor who heard her story and wanted to be part of the community-orientated project.
'Nursing is my passion and calling'
Her years in public service laid the roots for what she knows today, Pharo told News24.
"Those complaints and experience in crisis management is exactly where the lessons were learnt, the same lessons which now enables me to offer a better service to the community whom I love so much. I believe that we are all hand-picked to do certain things. Nursing is my passion and my calling," she said.
"Helping is not only a privilege, but also an honour. I didn't pick this career. It chose me. This is where my heart and soul is."
At Pharo's facility at the Atlantis City Centre, she is supported by three clinical nurse practitioners, two knowledgeable administrative staff members, as well as a counsellor.
On her Facebook page, locals have had nothing but praise for the familiar face who had treated them since the 1990s.
"She is [an] excellent health practitioner and a fabulous human being," one user said, recommending her services.
Another commented: "Her personality alone makes one feel warm and welcome instantly, she cares for others' needs above her own and she does her job with love and passion. Very few people nowadays [do] the job out of love, but this strong woman stands out. Well done sister!"
A woman who this week made use of Pharo's facility, gave her a "definite 10 out of 10".
"I will most definitely be back," she said.
Pharo said 718 patients have been assisted since her doors opened on March 1.
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are receiving compliments on a daily basis," she beamed.
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