MediaHealth care left blowing in wind in Blikkiesdorp

5 10 2009

Note: Yet more reasons why Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers refuse to go to Blikkiesdorp…

October 04, 2009 Edition 1
VUYO MABANDLA –
Cape Argus

‘Very ill residents in dire need of medical help’Wind and sand make life hell for residents of Blikkiesdorp, the temporary shack town near Delft set up by the City of Cape Town last year for people in emergencies.

Now a row is brewing between health authorities and community leaders who claim residents are not being looked after.

Wiseman James, who has TB, claims staff at the Delft Community Health Centre, which serves the people of Delft as well as the 5 000 Blikkiesdorp residents, have not provided him with his medication for weeks, despite several trips to the clinic.

He says he is now bedridden and weak, and adds: “I’ve lost hope that I will live long enough to see the forthcoming years.”

Resident Mary-Anne Joseph claimed when she took her two children who were complaining of chest pains to the clinic last month, staff shouted “rude” comments at her and made remarks about how “sick and thin” her children were.

She said: “Then they sent us home with only a bottle of cough syrup. I was really hurt. I can’t help it if we live in a dusty place, it’s not our fault.”

Blikkiesdorp, wedged between Symphony Way and the airport, is home to a variety of people including some who were displaced during last year’s xenophobic violence. The houses are corrugated iron shacks. When the wind blows, sand coats the inside of the dwellings. Toilets are frequently blocked, causing a plague of flies. Community representatives have accused the health centre, the city and the provincial government of “refusing to provide necessary medical treatment to hundreds of critically ill Blikkiesdorp residents who are in dire need of medical help”.

Community leader Eddie Swartz, who heads the volunteers who provide care for sickly neighbours, claimed whenever they approached the clinic for assistance they were “let down”. As a result, he added, a number of people had died – “people who suffered from TB, HIV/Aids and bronchitis, and were without medical treatment for a while. We get ignored every time we go. And whenever we call an ambulance. it takes long to arrive. We are being denied sufficient medical care,” he said.

Gaironissa Abrahams, another community leader, claimed people had to deal with “hostility” from clinic staff.

Health authorities have refuted these claims.

City health director Ivan Bromfield claimed health teams regularly visited the settlement to “monitor TB patients and check on their progress to recovery”. He said there were more than 200 other settlements in similar straits in Cape Town.

Cope’s Phillip Dexter slammed the remark as disrespectful. “We are dismayed by the poor living conditions of people in Blikkiesdorp. Amid allegations of mismanagement in areas such as housing allocation, assertions by the city that Blikkiesdorp is ‘just another one of the Western Cape’s 223 informal settlements’ is a slap in the face,” he said.

The provincial health department said it was unaware of complaints about the clinic. Spokeswoman Faiza Steyn said she suspected the community had not used “proper channels of communication to bring up the issue”. But Swartz claimed they had approached Delft councillor Frank Martin, who had assured them he would draw the city’s attention to the matter, but they had not heard from him again.

Martin could not be reached for comment.

Bromfield, however, said city officials had communicated with Blikkiesdorp leaders and had encouraged them to use the local clinic, as there was no other health facility nearby.

The community, visibly irate when the Weekend Argus visited the area last week, claimed that going to the local clinic for treatment was “a nightmare”.

Poor sanitation, sand and flies presented a serious problem, said Professor David Sanders, head of the UWC School of Public Health.

“For people living in such conditions, airborne diseases could commonly spread. This is the case for many other people in the province, but in this case the people are confined to a dusty area.”

Abrahams said people who helped their sickly neighbours by ensuring they took their medication needed basic equipment such as gloves, anti-oxidants and soaps to avoid infection.

Bromfield stressed that this was not necessary, as the clinic had teams providing home-based care. He conceded there were staff shortages at health facilities.

Cope has called on the city to “immediately” launch an investigation into the alleged mismanagement of Blikkiesdorp and “to draw up a timeline for the people of Blikkiesdorp to be moved into permanent housing”.

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