PE clinic reopened after meeting with authorities and residents

A public clinic in Port Elizabeth has been reopened after it was shut down by residents last week. This comes after authorities intervened.

Kwazakhele clinic, which serves about 500 patients a day and has 60 employees, was shut down over accusations that the health department was failing to honour its promise to upgrade its security system and aging infrastructure.

According to GroundUp, staff and patients have been robbed on numerous occasions, according to the protesting residents. They said the most recent incident occurred at the end of July when two security guards were tied up and robbed in broad daylight at the clinic. Thieves made off with the guards’ cellphones.

Clinic committee chairperson Xolani Sandlana told GroundUp: "We are trying to work in conditions that are not safe, but patients have a constitutional right to get treated under safe and secured conditions. It is unfortunate that at this clinic, this is not possible because of crime."

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A senior employee at the clinic told GroundUp: "We are always fearing for our lives. The clinic does not have a secured wall. There are trees around that criminals can scale and enter the premises unnoticed."

Sandlana, ward councillor Gamalihleli Maqula, health department district head Sindi Gede, a representatives from the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), community organisations and councillors agreed on Tuesday to address the residents.

On Wednesday, they visited the clinic and residents agreed to reopen the clinic.

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A patient, who did not want to be named, told the gathering: "I collect my medication from this clinic. I don’t feel safe if people are being robbed.

"Criminals are even stealing our medication. I would like the clinic to be opened in order for us not to default on our treatment. The department should speed up its programme of securing the clinic."

Another resident said people had been turned away at other clinics.

Maqula told GroundUp: "The community requested a secured gate, a strong perimeter wall and panic buttons that are linked to the police station. The clinic is also old and was built from prefabricated material which is not strong. The department has confirmed that it has already acquired these security gadgets. They are just waiting to deliver them to the clinic.

"Crime is committed by people we stay with; it is done by our own brothers and sisters in the community… All the security features can be put in place, but without the involvement of community members, it will not work."

Gede told residents: "The clinic’s gate has been installed. We are only waiting for a service provider doing fencing to issue a certificate of health and safety. Additional security is already there. We want our employees to go back to work. They have their unions where such issues are directed. We are addressing the issues and I am confident that everything will be fixed by September."

Ward councillor Sizwe Jodwana said: "The health department responded positively to address issues raised by employees about their safety… Not only are criminals targeting clinics, but schools, shops and residents have become victims."