no phones in clinicS

12 November 2009 - 02:00
By Alex Matlala

ABOUT 41 CLINICS and two health centres in Limpopo have no phones.

This means about 10% percent of the 416 clinics and 27 health centres in the province have no phones.

These statistics were revealed in research conducted by the Democratic Alliance last week on the level of service rendered by health institutions to the province's citizens.

These statistics leave Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale with egg on his face.

Mathale waxed lyrical in his state of the province address in which he said the health of the people remained a "key priority" for his government for the next five years.

Research shows that the hardest hit are rural villagers who travel long distances for medical assistance.

Nurses in clinics are forced to use their cellphones to communicate with senior staffers on day-to-day matters.

DA representative in the Limpopo legislature Meisie Kennedy said yesterday that the shortage of phones often resulted in patients losing their lives.

"A phone is the most basic communication tool and without it no public health facility can operate effectively," he said.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday Matome Khothongo Mopai of Bokhuta village outside Tzaneen said in most cases nurses in clinics around Bolobedu South were compelled to send "Please call me" messagesto doctors and managers.

Mopai said some nurses relied on public phones to communicate with senior health officials.

Mopai said in emergencies patients often died while waiting for a doctor to come 27km from Tzaneen.

Mopai said pregnant mothers often gave birth on the side of the road while waiting to be taken to clinics.

"Poorly paid nurses cannot make calls when they are attacked because they cannot afford airtime for their cellphones," Mopai said.

"In crime-infested areas nurses are often raped while others are killed in their rooms.

"Criminals rape or kill nurses without anyone knowing."

Provincial spokesperson for the Limpopo department of health Selby Makgotho confirmed the phone shortage. He said the staff affected were using cellphones for emergencies.

"We are buying cellphones for clinics that do not have phones throughout the province," he said.