Lack of nurses forces patients to queue from 3am
The HIV/Aids activist who broke into the Kgabo clinic's pharmacy and dispensed medication to patients in Winterveldt said he did this out of frustration and to highlight the crisis at public health facilities in Tshwane.
Bhekisisa Mazibuko, a Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activist, spent the Easter weekend in the Loate police station's holding cells after using a brick to break the door of the pharmacy.
The 42-year-old, who has been living with HIV for 23 years, said he decided to break into the pharmacy after nurses closed it at 4pm, without attending to chronic medication patients who had waited for eight hours.
"I had already dispensed medication to 20 hypertension, diabetes and HIV patients when police arrived," he said. "I admit what I did was wrong but as an activist, I had to act to draw attention to the appalling treatment of patients at the clinic."
When Sowetan visited the clinic at midday during the week, there was one nurse on duty. Patients' files were packed in boxes on the floor of the waiting area and on the reception counter. Soshanguve's Block BB clinic was also referring patients to Kgabo clinic because only one nurse had reported for duty there too.
A note on the gate read: "Due to nursing staff crises (sic), all patients to go to Kgabo clinic . only emergencies will be attended to."
Eunice Kwabi, 33, of Block X, in Soshanguve, said: "Our clinics are not up to standard and the biggest problem is the waiting period. At Block X clinic, we have to arrive as early as 3am and queue outside until the clinic opens at 7.30am.
"The issue of a shortage of staff is crippling primary healthcare."
Tumelo Mabena, another TAC activist, said: "It is getting worse. It cannot be that people have to wait eight hours to be attended to. At Block JJ clinic, people wait outside the clinic at 3am and the clinic opens at 7.30am but nurses ... only start attending to patients at 9am.
"The clinic closes at 4pm but its pharmacy closes an hour earlier, meaning some patients go home with no medication."
Tshwane MMC for health, Sakkie du Plooy, admitted there was a crisis and said no nurses had been appointed at Tshwane clinics since 2015.