“South Africa is heading for a disaster if the number of people living with chronic diseases of lifestyle does not change,” said Minister Aaron Motsoaledi last year. But not much has changed. Millions of people, burdened with chronic disease, flock to health facilities on a daily basis, where they experience poor services, rude nurses and insufficient medication. UYANDA SIYOTULA spoke to Gauteng residents.
Thamsanqa Khumalo, 42, Rosettenville
I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2011 at the South Rand Hospital. Every month l go and collect my medication, and the service at the hospital is very bad. The nurses are unfriendly to us and the queues are very long. If your name is called and you don’t hear it, your medication is put aside and when you go and ask they shout at you and tell you that next time you won’t get your pills .On a good day it takes me 6 hours, on the worst days 8 hours to get my medication.
The government must intervene and improve the service at public hospitals. They must hire more nurses to make the service faster and teach them how to treat patients. I will definitely not vote for ANC, I think EFF can do a better job, so I will give them a chance.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common chronic illnesses all over the departments here at Helen Joseph hospital. Now, even young people get these illnesses. It starts as acute and eventually becomes chronic. Oh, and HIV… I almost forgot about that. Most of them take it badly when they find out they have the illness. We have Thembalethu clinic which is an HIV clinic and when we run out of ARV’s we order from the clinic.
We sometimes do run out of medication. I deal with patients that mostly have muscular skeletal problems who suffer from a lot of pain and when we run out the drugs we use, it’s a problem.
I have noticed that here they order cheap medication. There are a lot of problems, even though they are really trying, but if they fix this, something else is broken or missing. Most of the equipment here is old and the beds also… they do introduce new equipment but it is slow, slow. I will vote for the ANC because I’m not quite sure if the problem is with the government or the hospital, like if things are delivered and not well taken care of by the hospital.
Namhla Sikhele, 52, Green Village
Living with a chronic disease is not easy, but you just have to accept it. I am HIV positive and have been for eight years now. Clinics are a huge stress and the nurses… I do not even want to talk about them. At Zola clinic, clinic queues are always so long and slow. Nurses go on their tea and lunch break for hours, leaving sick people in the queue. Another thing is that the government gives grants to people whose CD4 count is lower than 300. Do we have to be dying before they support us?
I think the government is trying. Still though, the clinic runs out of medication and they turn you back. They are not doing enough. I do not think I can vote for the ANC again, because it has done way less than it had promised. I think it’s failing, not only people who are sick, but nationally. The fact that I am sick, poor, unemployed and staying in a shack should tell you a lot about our government.
I last went to Helen Joseph a month ago. It took about five hours for me to get help. I think there are a lot of people that need help and it’s a public hospital so I cannot complain much. I think our government is trying… there are so many things that the government is doing, houses, supplying hospitals with medication but there is a lack here and there, especially the rate of unemployment. In the coming elections I will vote for the ANC because I think they deserve another chance.
Bontle Molefe, 21, Randfontein
Three months back, I was diagnosed with TB and I am still taking my medication at Leratong hospital. I take about 6 pills a day so I can get better. The section for people with different stages of TB varies so I choose not to disclose the stage of TB I am in. Leratong hospital is a very dirty hospital. The services there are really bad but I do not queue for a long time, which makes me happy. The maximum time I have spent in the line is 45 minutes. The nurses, however, are very rude. The last time I went there they chose to disclose my sickness with everyone in the ward. Private hospitals, on the other hand, are perfect but I do not have enough money or a medical aid scheme to go for my treatment there.
The government should really hire professional nurses who value patient confidentiality. Try to manage the lines. Also ensure hospital professionalism and proper management at the hospital. That is why we vote, so that we can get better services in the country. I am not happy with how nurses treat patients.
I work at Helen Joseph Hospital as a nurse. I started working here in 2012. TB and meningitis and pneumonia are the most common chronic diseases I encounter daily. Some patients are scared, especially those that have to take the TB treatment since, they do not think they can cope. We do sometimes run out of medication and if a patient is sick there is nothing we can do. I think our government is trying but it is just not hard enough. There are some hiccups here and there, and loopholes. Our hospital is not as advanced as an academic hospital, which has more specialists, more equipment, so we cannot really say we can cater for everyone.
Most of the time there are slow queues. You can go in the morning around 6am and come out at 4pm. I am honestly not satisfied; the health department is a mess. Here at Helen Joseph, they have recently changed the procedures. People have to queue differently now and it’s is more confusing and delaying. Honestly, I am an EFF supporter. The government has disappointed me so many times, not just health but many other things, If I knew you were coming to ask about it I would have written a list of these problems. We need a new government. If we do not change the one in power, we will just see more and more corruption, and Nkandla 2.