Nurses in village clinic buy medical essentials with their own money

The bushes surrounding the clinic in Buntingville are so overgrown that the clinic looks disused. But it is used, and it’s badly under-resourced. (Yamkela Ntshongwana, GroundUp)
The bushes surrounding the clinic in Buntingville are so overgrown that the clinic looks disused. But it is used, and it’s badly under-resourced. (Yamkela Ntshongwana, GroundUp)

Nurses at a clinic in Buntingville, about 18km south-east of Mthatha, have been using their own money to improve the health facility.

They have bought glucose meters for managing diabetes, at about R250 each, and tubing for drips. Sometimes they even pay for patients' transport to better resourced facilities, GroundUp reports.

They have done this because, they say, the Eastern Cape Department of Health has neglected their facility.

This clinic serves patients from eight locations. It employs four professional nurses.

When GroundUp visited the clinic on May 8, one of the nurses was taking blood from a patient without gloves, because the clinic has none.

"I know what I am doing is very risky. Can you imagine if I can accidentally prick myself with this bloodied needle? But it's my job. I have no choice," said the nurse who asked to remain unnamed.

The blood of the diabetic patient she was seeing had to be sent  to the nearest hospital which is 40km's away, for analysis. Having glucose meters would allow the test to be done onsite.

The nurse said the last time she was able to do a thorough check-up of a diabetic or high-blood pressure patient was December.

"We have no clinic detergents, no groundsman to clean outside. We have one caretaker who has to run the clinic by herself. The grass outside [is so long] you would swear the clinic is no longer in operation. Our grass gets cut once a year and only the front. The toilets are a mess; you have to think twice before going to it," she said.

The nurse said she knows nothing about the facility's budget but believes the clinic has never received its "proper" share. The clinic manager declined to comment.

Thanduxolo Sidlayiya is the chair of the clinic committee, which represents the community's interests. He also has diabetes. He considers that his life in is in danger because at the clinic they are not able to check his diabetes level.

Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said the complaints had been taken to the district to resolve.

He gave no deadlines.

GroundUp published the article on Monday and the nurses say no progress has been made since its May 8 visit.

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