Western Cape health authorities asked to look into community complaints

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday asked Western Cape health officials to investigate allegations of racism and ill-treatment of patients by health care professionals at Paarl Hospital and Phola Park Clinic in Mbekweni.

This followed complaints by several patients that approached the Public Protector during her unannounced visits to the two facilities ahead of her meeting with community members at Paarl East Thusong Community Centre.

“The people are complaining about uncaring attitudes while some have alleged racism. We have asked the hospital and clinic to look into these issues and find out why people are saying that,” said the Public Protector.

The Public Protector is the Western Cape as part of her annual stakeholder dialogue and public hearing. The campaign focuses on strengthening government’s ability to deliver on Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on ending poverty and on health.

During the visit to Phola Park clinic, IsiXhosa-speaking patients complained about a communication breakdown between themselves and medical staff at the clinic due to the fact that they neither speak English nor Afrikaans. Some added that medical staff had been rude towards them.

One woman complained that her child had been denied access to Paarl Hospital. The woman claimed that she was violently man-handled by security personal at the facility when she tried to force her way into the hospital.

There were further complaints about patients waiting for too long in the queues before receiving attention from nursing staff. In addition, patients that arrived after the intake number for the day had been reached (usually as early as 9H00) were told to return the following day.

A complaint shared by medical staff at the clinic was that the facility is too small to cater for the community of Mbekweni. It was also said to be understaffed and often ran short of medical supplies, including medication for hypertension and epilepsy patients.

Medical staff also complained about the shortage of equipment such as the blood pressure monitors and scales. They added that the clinic did not have a dedicated pharmacist and that there was often no relief staff when they needed to go on leave.

Staff at the clinic also complained about the red tape surrounding ambulance services. They explained that they sometimes had to hold for over 30 minutes on the phone to get ambulances for patients that would have been referred to hospitals.

Most of the health matters raised during the meeting mirrored those brought to the fore during the unannounced visits.

Other complaints included RDP housing challenges, problems with SASSA grants, unemployment, economic exclusion of the basis of age, rising electricity costs, pensions for retired civil servants and land claims that are not being processed.

There was also an allegation of marginalization of traditional communities and leaders by the Western Cape Provincial Government and a bias in towards suburban areas regarding development projects.

The Public Protector pledged to work with competent authorities to immediately resolve urgent matters and engage communities further to get more details as part of investigations.

The dialogue proceeds to Cape Town on Wednesday, where the Public Protector will interact with organized stakeholders at the Civic Centre.

For more information, contact:

Kgalalelo Masibi
Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7006
079 507 0399
0800 11 20 40

Published Date: 
Tuesday, July 23, 2013