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​A trip to Bara hospital and local clinics was a means to understand challenges in the public health sector, and show support for efforts to overcome them.
GETTING his medication at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital was a different experience yesterday for 64-year-old John Mahlophe, who usually spends the entire day waiting for his prescription to be filled.

talks to Premier Nomvula MokonyanePremier Nomvula Mokonyane talks to John Mahlophe at Bara HospitalAbout 2pm on 14 March, Mahlophe, who lives in Chiawelo in Soweto, was among hundreds of regulars at the hospital’s pharmacy, waiting to collect their tablets. Sitting at number 57 in the queue, Mahlophe was sandwiched between young adults. The elderly man attracted the attention of Nomvula Mokonyane, Gauteng’s premier, who was visiting the hospital.

On hearing that he had been waiting since 8am, the premier was spurred to action. She was accompanied on the visit by the member of the Joburg mayoral committee for health and human development, Nonceba Molwele; the provincial health MEC, Ntombi Mekgwe; and the hospital’s management.

A few minutes after speaking to Mahlophe and disappearing into the back office of the pharmacy, the premier and her crew returned with his prescription and a nurse to help him make arrangements to collect his medication at his nearest clinic in Chiawelo, instead of making the regular trip to the big hospital.

“It is the premier’s responsibility to help us because we chose her to be where she is now. It is not every day that things happen, but she happens to be here; there must be a difference. I believe there will be a change after the premier’s visit to the hospital,” said Mahlophe.

Mokonyane said they were told that the pharmacy was busier on Wednesdays, hence she chose that day to visit. The premier witnessed the long queue, where hundreds of patients were seated, including the elderly and the physically disabled, all visibly exhausted from the long wait.

The team visited the antenatal unit, she said, the maternity wards and the neonatal ward, which she described as very sensitive because it housed premature babies whose birth weight was very low. One of the challenges at the hospital was the high number of premature births.

“As government we encourage pregnant mothers to present themselves to the clinic earlier, before they reach 20 weeks so that the health services can pick up whatever complications that [may] be there in the future,” she said.

Another concern was the maternity ward, where about 90 mothers were treated daily. There was a definite need for an extension.

Medical staff membersKliptown Clinic faces a number of challenges Mokonyane was told that the hospital provided health care not only to Sowetans and people across Gauteng, but also to people from neighbouring provinces, such as Free State, Mpumalanga and North West. “We definitely need to make sure that there is better management, that we deal with this reality and that everybody gives the necessary support to Bara,” she said.

Earlier in the day, the group were at Kliptown Clinic, where the premier spoke to waiting patients and toured the clinic. Some poured out their hearts to the premier, who solved some issues on the spot. Others complained about the bad treatment from care givers.

However, she pointed out that she was not there to spy on anyone. The visit was simply to interact with the community to find out how they could work together to find working solutions. “We are not only here to deal with patients but also to interact with management dealing with health care, attitudes to applying the Batho Pele principle, how to deal with and serve the community,” she explained.

Long hours
Long waiting hours and the working environment were among the challenges that were raised by staff. The clinic was built in 1955, and Mokonyane said it did not offer a favourable working environment. She promised to treat the matter as urgent.

It looks more like a family home than a clinic, with its open area – which looks like it was originally a garage – backrooms and narrow passages.

The premier said the clinic dealt more with illnesses that could have been avoided, such as diabetes, tuberculosis and asthma. “We need to do a lot of work with communities and ward councillors and our health community workers to heighten the message of healthy living,” she suggested.

Yet she was impressed that almost every patient knew the clinic manager and called her by name. Mokonyane said the provincial health sector was under huge demand rather than in crisis, and that there were a lot of committed, hard-working people in it.

Health care centres throughout the province were visited as part of the provincial government’s public participation programme, set up to assess the state of health care delivery and promote healthy lifestyles.

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