Desperate scenes played out at some Eastern Cape day hospitals and clinics on Monday as people were either turned away by the hundreds, apparently due to shortages of surgical masks, gloves and hand sanitisers, or were made to stand in queues for hours on end.
Hundreds of people were refused treatment at the Duncan Village day hospital because doctors and nurses, fearing they could contract the coronavirus, would not work without safety equipment, patients said.
DispatchLIVE saw more than 200 people, mostly women and children, lined up close to one another outside the hospital.
They said hundreds more had been turned away at the gate by security guards. About a dozen women, who had given up on receiving medical attention, made their way dejectedly back home in the direction of the Douglas Smith highway.
They told DispatchLIVE they had waited in vain for treatment from 5am to 11am.
West Bank resident Nolundi Mbasa said residents had been told by hospital staff they would only help them on Tuesday, when protective gear was supposed to arrive.
Mbasa said: “I did not even have breakfast because I needed to rush to the hospital to fetch my medication, which I need to take every day.
“I can’t go without taking my medication. My health would be severely compromised. We might not die from Covid-19 but we will definitely die if we get complications from the illnesses we already have.”
A security guard at the gate refused to let DispatchLIVE in.
He said management was in a meeting.
Despite numerous telephone calls, e-mails and WhatsApp queries sent to Judy Ngoloyi, the spokesperson for health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, no response had been received at the time of writing.
DispatchLIVE called the hospital’s direct line. A staff member said she was “not sure” if a patient who went to the hospital on Monday would get help.
“It will depend. Not everyone is allowed in.”
The woman could not say how many people had been admitted or when patients had been seen to.
Orange Grove resident Lindiwe Mathyolweni said she had to borrow R100 to pay for transport, first to the Greenfields clinic, which screened her son for tuberculosis, and then to the Duncan Village day hospital.
“I have a letter from the clinic that says he urgently needs to see a doctor at this hospital today and possibly start treatment.
“He was already throwing up on our way here. I don’t have money to come back here tomorrow,” Mathyolweni said.
Gonubie resident Zonwabele Zana, who paid R40 for transport to the hospital, said: “I’ve been here since 7am and nobody has addressed us. Those who were here earlier said they were told that there was a lack of surgical gloves and masks, but nothing has been communicated to us.”
In Mthatha, large numbers of people arrived at the town’s Gateway and Stanford Terrace clinics.
Patients told DispatchLIVE that nurses were run off their feet trying to ensure everyone was attended to.
Zoleka Mbarha told DispatchLIVE: “I have never seen so many patients, both old and young. Some were in the queue from 5am — two hours before the clinic opened. I am one of those people who arrived very early.
“I got my medicine late. But I understand the situation. I applaud the nurses for the manner they dealt with the chaotic situation at Stanford Terrace clinic,” said Mbarha.
Read more of the story on DispatchLIVE
BY: SOYISO MALITI, LULAMILE FENI AND ASANDA NINI