In a country that has the biggest divide between public and private healthcare, community careworkers are not recognized as employees and do not enjoy labour rights and the protection of SA’s labour laws.
In a gloomy room in a cinder block RDP house so cramped there is barely enough space to move his wheelchair, Masixole Sosikela, 29, looks as if he is part of the furniture.
Sosikela lost the use of his legs in a car accident three years ago and has since been confined to the small house he shares with his mother and young brother. With his mother at work and his brother at school, he spends his days alone in the house in BM Section, Greenpoint, Khayelitsha. His only daytime visitor is home community health worker, Nikezwa Bara, who comes to see him three times a week. She spends about an hour with him, washing and dressing his bedsores, emptying his catheter and changing his linen. Bara also prepares him something to eat in the kitchen and wheels him outside to enjoy a bit of sunshine.
Bara is one of 106 community health workers (CHWs) in Khayelitsha who offer essential health and social services to over 1,000 patients who are bed-ridden or chronically or terminally ill. For these patients, the CHWs are a lifeline of care and company.