New health services plan for Hangberg

South Africa - Cape Town - 18 September 2019 - Police fired teargas and let off stun grenades in attempt to quell protests in Hangberg, Hout Bay on Wednesday. Protestors retaliated with stones and marine rocket flares. In a statement police said that This morning at around 11:50 the situation in Hout Bay flared up when protestors set tyres alight and shot flares at police. Action was taken by police and the situation was restored. A case of public violence was registered and is being investigated. The protests are understood to be from unhappiness with action from the City of Cape Town with regards to the Peace Accord signed in 2011 as well as alleged corruption and mismanagement amongst Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) members. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

The unrest in Hangberg forced the Hout Bay Community Day Centre to close its doors, but the Department of Health has vowed to ensure that health services continue to be available, despite the facility being closed.

Spokesperson for the Department of Health, Natalie Watlington, explained that an interim plan involving, among others, the provision of shutters, home-based care services and offering screening at community halls, had been put in place.

“Over the past two years, facility based health service delivery has been disrupted on 10 separate occasions when spontaneous and planned community protests on real socio-economic challenges have resulted in road closures, vandalism and violent conflict in the Hangberg area,” she said.

Ms Watlington said this had resulted in staff and patients feeling unsafe as conflict around housing and other community issues intensified.     

“It is recognised that protests have never been directed at the health facility or its staff members. Under current circumstances, there is no guarantee of safety of staff at work and patients who are in the facility when these often unpredictable protests eventuate,” she added.

But Hangberg resident Merinda Ardendorf, who has three children, one of them seven months old, feels the community “has been left in the dark”.

“We have not been informed about what the plans are. Protests forced the clinic to close, but where do we go now and what do we do?” Another Hangberg local who relies on the services of the clinic is Thomas Baartman who goes there monthly for check-ups and to collect medication. “If the clinic does not open, it will make things so much harder for us, because there are plenty of people in this community who rely on this clinic,” he said.

Mr Baartman added that protest action was necessary as it gave residents the opportunity to voice their anger over matters unfolding in the Hangberg community.

However, he did not agree with protest action disrupting the provision of health services.

“We as a community must understand that we are fighting for people’s rights and fighting to get our voices heard, which I can respect as I also had to stand up to the apartheid government way back then.”

“But these same protesters must understand that there are people fighting to stay alive as well and these health services are important to us.”

The Department of Health has since put interim measures in place to ensure that residents of Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu continue to have access to health services:

Any emergency medical services are available by calling 10177 for Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Daily Chronic Dispensing Unit (CDU) – known chronic patients may collect their medication at Hangberg multipurpose hall – daily and five days a week via TB HIV Care, which has been contracted by the health department.

Community-health Workers (CHW) from TB HIV Care will be based at the multi-purpose hall and provide daily health and wellness screening and counselling.

Home- and community-based care is also delivered by CHWs.

Screening services for walk-in patients will be done at the Hangberg community hall.

An hourly shuttle service provided by Healthnet will be available for any patients requiring further clinical facility-based care at Lady Michaelis Community Day Centre.

The Hout Bay Clicks store, situated at the Mainstream shopping centre, will provide free services for child immunisation and family planning to all state patients. This will take place from 1pm to 5pm on Thursdays.

Ms Watlington added that there were plans, eight years in the making, to introduce a permanent comprehensive Hout Bay Community Day Centre, to replace the small, outdated facility in Hangberg.

She explained that after multiple community engagements and “complex site technicalities”, the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) and the City of Cape Town were working to secure the bowling green site.

Ms Watlington confirmed that a “modern, purpose-built health facility” would be built within three to five years, depending on infrastructure delivery processes.

“This interim alternative PHC service delivery model is a short-term intervention until a Temporary Hout Bay CDC site and venue is finalised,” she said.

“The DOH apologises sincerely for the inconvenience generated by the alternative health service delivery model, however, commits itself to the most rapid resolution of the current situation through mobilising all partners and available resources,” Ms Watlington said.