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City services hard hit

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Among the services hardest hit has been the provision of health services, as many medical staff members living in Galeshewe and Roodepan have not been able to get to work.

Picture: Danie van Der Lith

SERVICES in Kimberley have taken a pummelling as a result of the ongoing protest action.

Among the services hardest hit has been the provision of health services, as many medical staff members living in Galeshewe and Roodepan have not been able to get to work.

While Mediclinic Gariep spokesperson, Denise Coetzee, said the hospital had not been affected, Lenmed hospital confirmed that the protest action had been disruptive.

“I am happy to say that so far we have not been affected at all. The staff is on duty and everything is functioning as normal. We have also not received any casualties connected to the protest so far,” Coetzee said yesterday in response to media enquiries.

Manager of Lenmed, Hector McKay, however, stated that 16 nursing staff did not arrive for duty yesterday. “We resolved the issue by asking staff who live closer to the hospital to assist.

“With the schools being closed, staff who have children experience difficulties finding someone to look after their children,” he added.

The Northern Cape Department of Health yesterday pleaded with the protesters to allow health care staff and patients access to health care facilities.

“Without staff it is almost impossible to provide health care to our community members. Just letting a few emergency ambulances through the barricades is not the answer. We all have family members – mothers, fathers, children, aunts and uncles – who need routine and urgent care,” MEC Fufe Makatong said yesterday.

Her plea came after government hospitals and clinics in the Sol Plaatje municipal area suffered significantly throughout the day yesterday, resulting in many community members being unable to access the health care they needed.

“Emergency ambulances were allowed relatively free movement in the quieter areas; but in the volatile areas urgent and emergency patients suffered the most as ambulance crews were fearful for their safety. The volatility of the situation made it difficult for both patients and staff to attempt the journey to their health facility,” spokesperson for the MEC for Health, Lebogang Majaha, said.

He added that many clinic and casualty patients were not able to access their local health facility, including the Kimberley Hospital, for treatment by doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

“Out of 12 clinics, four could not even open, and those that did attempt to open had to run with greatly reduced staff numbers. The vast majority of patients could not access their much-needed health care.”

He stated that the Kimberley Hospital operated in “maintenance mode” throughout the day and was unable to receive planned admissions due to poorly running ambulance services.

“All planned elective surgical operations were cancelled. Only seven emergency operations could be performed and 19 operations had to be cancelled.”

According to Majaha, the staff numbers were under severe pressure. “A hospital needs doctors and nurses, but can also not function effectively without a full team of cleaners, porters, receptionists, as well as allied health professionals. The impact of this is that the clinical staff have to clean the worst spills and push the most urgent patients from casualty to the wards.”

Municipal offices and service centres around the city were also closed, and there was no refuse collection or sanitation services.

The functioning of the city council has also collapsed. Meetings scheduled for yesterday, including the Human Services Committee and the IDP, Budget and Performance Management Committee as well as the Corporate Services Committee were postponed for further notice.

An ordinary council meeting, which was due to meet today, was also postponed.

The protests also affected Sassa grant payments at the Kimberley Post Office.

The regional manager for the SA Post Office in the Northern Cape, Andrew Sia, said yesterday that the Pescodia, Mankurwane and Galeshewe post offices in Kimberley, as well as the Barkly West Post Office, were closed to ensure the safety of customers, employees and social grant beneficiaries during the community protests.

“The affected post offices will reopen as soon as the situation is considered safe,” Sai added.

He pointed out that while Sassa beneficiaries would be unable to withdraw their grants at these post office counters, his advice was to access their money through supermarkets like Shoprite, Spar, Pick * Pay or Checkers free of charge or from any commercial bank’s ATM.

“Beneficiaries can also swipe their new Sassa gold card as many times as they wish to pay for purchases at selected shops. These transactions are free of charge. The new Sassa gold card offers three free cash withdrawals per month from supermarkets, one free cash withdrawal per month at a post office counter and unlimited free swipes at supermarkets.”

Several business in the city’s CBD area also remained shut yesterday, while many government departments also closed their doors.