As good as it gets

As good as it gets

The clinic waiting room in Embalenhle is the dusty courtyard outside the buildings – rain or shine, this is where patients wait their turn to be seen.
The clinic waiting room in Embalenhle is the dusty courtyard outside the buildings – rain or shine, this is where patients wait their turn to be seen.

A scale takes centre stage in a dusty courtyard-come-parking lot. It would look strange except that this space is also a makeshift waiting room at a clinic in the township of Embalenhle, outside Secunda.

There are three rooms in the small clinic. One is for consultations; another is an office. The third is the foyer housing a filing cabinet and a medical refrigeration unit. There are also stacks of boxes, and buckets of sealed biohazard medical waste that has not been collected for safe disposal, which are stacked up in a corner of the room.

Patients are sitting on the few chairs that have been set out in the courtyard, waiting to see a nursing sister at the clinic; there is no doctor on call. They also lean up against the clinic walls and squat around the building. Most people have bought their own lunch because they expect to be there for the better part of the morning.

Rain or shine, hot or cold, this is where the patients must wait if they want medical attention.

A nursing sister stands on the step outside the clinic and shouts out the names of patients from a stack of green clinic cards. A few people push forward to retrieve their cards. Some people have questions. They try to find a gap to get the nurse’s attention. But they’re not pushy; they know they don’t have many choices. The answers they receive are brusque. They still don’t understand, but they been dealt with.

The Treatment Action Campaign has received a number of reports that there have been antiretroviral stock outs at this clinic, however nobody is prepared to speak on the record or to confirm any facts for fear of victimisation.

This is service delivery. This is a good as it gets here.