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‘Overcrowded’ NC container clinic closed

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Unions withdraw their members from Kuruman health facility due to occupational health and safety concerns

Poor working conditions at Bankhara Bodulong Clinic. Pictures: Supplied

BANKHARA Bodulong Clinic in Kuruman was closed for services on Wednesday following an inspection regarding compliance with occupational health and safety regulations.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) have both withdrawn their members from the facility.

Protest action took place last week due to the poor working conditions at the clinic.

Community health workers (CHWs) complained that the clinic was overcrowded and cramped, where six CHWs and one professional nurse contracted Covid-19.

“There is no clean running water and no proper toilets at the facility. There is no administrator or data capturer and no reception area to register patients and not enough chairs,” said the CHWs.

“There is no patient confidentiality as there is no filing system. The floor is wet whenever it rains, while the top of the water tank that supplies drinking water is open.”

They added that patients were exposed to the harsh elements as well as disease due to overcrowding at the facility.

“There is no waiting room, no pharmacy and the voluntary counselling and testing room is being used as a storeroom.”

Nehawu provincial secretary Steffen Cornelius said on Thursday that the clinic was housed in a container and that it posed a health hazard.

“The maximum number of people permitted inside a container is three, while there are 16 community health workers, seven nurses and patients that need to be accommodated at the clinic. This also creates a high risk of Covid-19 transmission,” said Cornelius.

He added that they had advised members not to report for duty, in the interests of their own safety, until the managers implement the recommendations of the occupational health and safety report.

“Employees also have a right to protect themselves especially if their workplaces are not safe.”

Cornelius recommended that an alternative venue be provided.

“The container is not conducive to be utilised as a clinic. A new hospital has been built close to the clinic and it only needs to be fitted with the necessary equipment.”

He added that a meeting was scheduled with the district office on Monday.

Denosa regional secretary Obakeng Moremi indicated that their members were deployed to the Kuruman and Wrenchville clinics following the closure of the Bankhara Bodulong Clinic.

“It is long overdue that attention is paid to the Bankhara Bodulong Clinic,” said Moremi.

He added that they would meet with the district health officials today to discuss the challenges at the clinic.

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lebogang Majaha said that a new structure was being built on site, which was nearing completion.

“The Bankhara Bodulong facility has not closed permanently,” Majaha said.

He said that clean water was provided to the clinic by the local municipality. “There are mobile toilets for staff members and patients.”

Majaha said that patients had been accessing services at the Kuruman Clinic as from Wednesday.

“From January 8, staff members will be deployed to render services at the facility while management attempts to resolve this matter and follows up on fast-tracking the completion of the new structure.

“We wish to apologise to the affected community for the delay and inconvenience,” said Majaha.