Healthy debate on clinic plan

The provincial Department of Health is thinking about building a clinic on Hout Bay Common, to the dismay of critics who fear it will ruin the town’s only “green lung”.

Those backing the plan say its central location will benefit all, including Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu residents, many of whom are solely reliant on state health care.

A joint statement from both the department and the City of Cape Town on Wednesday November 30, identifying the common’s old bowling green and nearby parking lot as the possible site drew mixed reaction.

The statement said the precise position and footprint of the proposed clinic depended on the extent and location of the existing Milkwood trees and the 30m-wide ecological buffer zone between the clinic and residential area.

Also, the proposal would be subject to an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and rezoning application.

The play park area along Main Road and the Lions Club Sunday Market site.

The clinic would replace smaller ones in Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu.
The City and Department of Health acknowledged the plans might worry those using the bowling club or hoping to use surrounding land to develop the United Park of Hout Bay.

Retaining and incorporating existing facilities into the clinic’s layout, while minimising the impact of its footprint, could be a possible compromise, one that would see the community benefit from a clinic and park co-existing side by side”.

The statement said that while there had been “strong opinions” and “disagreement” over the need for a single clinic, there had also been growing understanding that one facility was economically more viable and would encourage much-needed integration.

At a recent meeting of the Hout Bay Community Health Forum, it was decided that the site the common was the “only practical site” available for the new facility. After inviting comment from various stakeholders, including NGOs in Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu, as well as religious organisations and other health interest parties, the proposed site was adopted in principal by the community representatives at the health forum’s annual general meeting.

The City and Department of Health statement said other possible sites had been ruled out because a primary health-care facility should be within 5km of the communities it served. It also had to be above flood lines and have main-road access for emergency vehicles, among other things.

Roscoe Jacobs, of the Hout Bay Civic Association, welcomed the proposal, but he called on the City to create a “loop” in Hout Bay for the MyCiTi bus service to help residents get to the clinic.

“This must enter into Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg. The City and province must also ensure the community is engaged on the future usage of the two clinic sites, as how these can best be used moving forward,” he said.

For Imizamo Yethu community leader Kenny Tokwe, the proposal was “very, very positive”.

“I was part of that discussion with the health forum, where we voted for the site. I think it is very good to have an integrated clinic serving all three of Hout Bay’s communities. I think there is a perception that this facility won’t be for white people, but there are many poorer white people who have not been able to save for their retirement, and now they will be able to access health care at the centre.”

Health forum chairwoman Liz Huckle said it was a reality that “you couldn’t please everyone”.

“My view is surely that health is more important than a nice-to-have park. I have also spoken to the communities in Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu, and they all believe that the centre would be a very uniting facility to have among all Hout Bay’s communities.”

These views, however, are not shared by everyone. Hout Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association chairman Len Swimmer called the plan a “win-lose” situation.

The association, he said, was “disappointed” an alternative “win-win” site “was not considered”, one that would have integrated the clinic and the United Park “instead of destroying the Hout Bay Common”.

“My question is would a day hospital be built in The Company’s Garden? Then why on the Hout Bay Common?”

Julia Gane, a resident and one of the main drivers of the United Park of Hout Bay, said she was “100 percent” behind a clinic in Hout Bay.

However, she felt there were other sites, namely one near the fire station and another near the Beach Club, where it could be built without replacing a community centre, impacting on the green belt and river and limiting the park, which had already been planned.

“Both park and clinic are possible and would be assets to our community,” she said.