Gugulethu residents march for access and better healthcare facilities

A group of protestors outside the Western Cape legislature demanding the building of district hospital in Gugulethu. Photo by Vincent Lali

The protestors demand the building of a district hospital in Gugulethu as the day hospital is not adequately equipped.

Angry Gugulethu residents demonstrated and handed their memorandum to the Western Cape Health Department in Cape Town today. They are demanding the building of a District Hospital in Gugulethu.

Their memorandum says: “We have gathered today because of our pain, suffering, anger and frustration related to the delay in building a new clinic, trauma centre and MOU for Gugulethu and surrounding areas.”

The memorandum states that the new hospital must be constructed between 2024 to 2026 and should include a large and efficient trauma centre, as demanded by the residents.

The memorandum further states that there is no adequate and safe parking space at the nearby KTC Day Hospital, where residents currently access medical care.

“Patients are expected to park outside the hospital, and this puts them at risk of hijacking, mugging and rape,” says the memorandum.

It says patients are forced to sleep on chairs as a result of a “severe bed shortage” at the public hospital.

Snaking queues inside and outside clinics have become the norm, as in this clinic in Gugulethu.
Photo by Noluthando Matshoba

Michael Hamnca, organiser of Movement for Change and Social Justice, said the KTC Day Hospital is too small to accommodate Gugulethu’s sick residents in need of medical attention.

“Residents with chronic diseases wait outside in the rain for nurses to attend to them because the hospital has no space,” he said.

Hamnca said: “They arrive in the morning to get a place in the queue while it’s still dark in the morning and thugs rob them.”

“The Health Department and Public Works confuse us. Each department says it’s the responsibility of the other to build the hospital,” he said.

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Hamnca said the Trauma Unit at KTC is too small to house residents with stab and gunshot wounds, as well as car accident victims. Additionally, the Pharmacy is too small to store sufficient medication for the ill residents of Gugulethu.

Thembeka Banjwa, who participated in the demonstration, said: “Our maternity unit is made of ceiling boards. Rain comes into the unit through them.”

“People with chronic conditions are told to collect their medications elsewhere, but they are either too sick to go there or too broke to afford a taxi fare,” she said. Banjwa said she wanted KTC to be rebuild in a big space elsewhere.

Mamoesa Pharo, who also joined the protest, shared her experience when she went with her husband – who had an appendix problem – to KTC Day hospital the other day.

“The nurses made us wait in a small, smelly room which contained a dust bin with pads, used bandages, injections. We struggled to breathe as the dust bin smelled disgusting,” she said.

Earlier this year, healthworkers went on strike demanding the filling of vacancies amongst other demands. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Hamnca said that he and other community leaders met with senior officials from the Klipfontein Health District to discuss the construction of a new, bigger hospital.

“The hospital was supposed to be built in 2020. A budget was available. It seems as if it was used for other purposes during Covid pandemic,” he said.

Hamnca said that the KTC Day Hospital was built in 1965 to provide services to 27 000 people, but since then the population had shot to about 400 000.

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“We want to know what happened to the budget for the hospital,” he said.

Hamnca said: “In June this year, the officials said the hospital would be built in 2036. We reject the projected time-frame as a gross violation of our health rights.”

The residents have given the Department fourteen days to respond to the memorandum, otherwise they plan to stage a sit-in at the department, he said.

Stanley-Adam Benjamin, secretary for the Ministry of Health, collected the memorandum and said he would hand it to the Health Minister.

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