Protest plunges Khayelitsha hospital into crisis, disrupting transport for patients and staff

Khayelitsha District Hospital day-shift staff were unable to get to work on Thursday because of a protest that blockaded the township.
Khayelitsha District Hospital day-shift staff were unable to get to work on Thursday because of a protest that blockaded the township.
Image: Esa Alexander

A protest over water bills in Cape Town's largest township prevented hospital staff reporting for work on Thursday and meant ambulances could respond only to life-threatening emergencies.

Night-shift staff at the 300-bed Khayelitsha District Hospital were unable to leave, while day-shift staff were not been able to get to work to replace them, said Western Cape health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo.

She condemned the shutdown, saying it put "tremendous pressure on the health service" in Khayelitsha and surrounding townships.

"While the community or any person can raise their unhappiness through protest, one must be mindful on how these actions prevent vulnerable patients from accessing essential services," said Mbombo in a statement.

"Emergency medical services are responding only to life-threatening emergencies in Khayelitsha, by staff that are already there, as staff cannot get into the area.

"Measures have been put in place to deploy EMS to other facilities that can't access the area."

At noon, Cape Town traffic spokesperson Maxine Bezuidenout said Khayelitsha was calm and all roads were open except for Mew Way between Spine Road and Mfundiswen Road.

But the N2 remained closed between Sir Lowry's Pass Road and Somerset Main Road. Sir Lowry's Pass Village was also closed.

"The whole area remains very volatile, with large groups moving around, stoning vehicles and looting private shops," said Bezuidenhout.

Police spokesperson Sgt Noloyiso Rwexana said more than 1,000 residents of Lwandle, in Somerset West, were protesting and looting. Eight people had been arrested and the situation was volatile.

Community safety MEC Alan Winde, the DA's Western Cape premier candidate, has called for the arrest of the protest instigators, who also stopped buses running in Khayelitsha.

"The names and contact details of the organisers of this action have been sent to me by the community," said Winde, adding that he had passed them on to the police.

"With less than a month to go to the election, violent and narrow-minded political parties are trying every desperate trick in the book to disrupt our communities. What they are doing, however, is hurting the very people they are purporting to serve," said Winde.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane described protests around the country on Thursday as a desperate attempt by the ANC to tarnish his party and "render DA-run cities ungovernable" in order to "shift attention away from its failure in government over the past 25 years".

Maimane said the governing party "has become a movement that embodies undemocratic behaviour - from burning books to burning our communities. They have run out of ideas, and these violent protests are proof of this."

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