Upset over clinic meeting postponement

MEC for Health Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.

A highly anticipated meeting between the Hangberg community and Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo was postponed this week.

During her visit to the Hangberg clinic last month, Dr Mbombo had pledged to return to the area (“Health MEC addresses fears of clinic staff,” Sentinel, September 21).

The health department had drawn flak from the community for closing the clinic in response to rioting in the area in late August. The clinic was then reopened, and during her visit on Monday September 17, Dr Mbombo had agreed that community engagement was “crucial”, and she had pledged to return to Hout Bay for a public open day, where everyone’s views could be heard.

However, her return visit was put on hold on Tuesday October 2, due to “unforeseen circumstances”, according to the MEC’s spokeswoman Colleen Smart. She said the meeting – due to have been held at the Hangberg civic centre – had been the City of Cape Towns’ idea and referred the Sentinel to ward councillor Roberto Quintas. But Mr Quintas denied that.

He said Dr Mbombo had simply asked him to arrange an after-hours public meeting where she could speak to residents when they were not at work, as per the community’s request.

“I proposed the date and time and venue, and her office confirmed. I then booked (the venue), and her office provided me with a flier (advertising the meeting) which I then shared with community organisations,” Mr Quintas said.

There is another reason cited for the postponement, with Roscoe Jacobs, of the Hout Bay Civic Association, saying there had been dissatisfaction over the meeting being announced without proper consultation with community leaders.

Mr Jacobs said his organisation was mandated to liaise with the health department.

“When we left the oversight meeting, our understanding was that the department would engage with us.

“The MEC told us that her office would liaise with us to tell us when she was available, and then we would work from there,” Mr Jacobs said.

“Up until today, we haven’t received any engagement from her office. Then on Thursday or Friday last week, the ward councillor (Roberto Quintas) shared a poster advertising the meeting. When I queried this, I was told I should speak to the health department.”

Mr Jacobs said he had then emailed the head of department in Dr Mbombo’s office.

“In that email, I welcomed that the MEC was coming, but I also registered my dissatisfaction because there was no consultation with the people who had asked her to come here. Then today (Tuesday), we were told that the meeting had been postponed.

“All they had to do was say, ‘I’m wrong, I apologise’, and we could move forward. But with this postponement, the department is delaying the actual concerns of residents and the things we want to have addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Mr Jacobs said the community had wanted to learn more about the clinic planned for the Hout Bay Common, but they would now not have that opportunity.

“One would have thought that department would have learnt from the mistake of closing the clinic without consultation, but now, again, a meeting has been postponed without consultation just because someone didn’t take responsibility for something they promised to do. We want to engage government, but the government doesn’t want to engage us.”

Liz Huckle, of the Hout Bay Health Forum, said she had only learnt about the postponement at 5pm on Tuesday.

She had been informed by staff at the Hangberg clinic who, in turn, had been contacted by Dr Mbombo’s office.

“The health forum didn’t receive any official notification of the meeting or the postponement from the health department,” she said.