The long wait for healing
Outside the town of Thaba Nchu, locals gather around a dusty patch, trying to squeeze under a zinc carport for shade. The midday sun is baking hot but locals brave whatever the weather throws at them because they want to vent. They’re angry; their district hospital, The Dr JS Moraka Hospital, is as good a mortuary, they say. People don’t heal there, they say; the nurses and doctors don’t care enough to treat patients with dignity or patience. They’re even angrier that their criticism and complaints are just considered ‘some patients’ opinions’ rather than serious concerns to be investigated.
Leeto Thubisi tells his story of arriving at the hospital in April with severe toothache. He waited four hours before a doctor arrived. After a basic examination, he was told to collect painkillers from the dispensary and was sent on his way. He didn’t even both to queue again for the meds.
‘I was in so much pain and the nurses were rude to me. There are also student nurses there who have no experience, they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re not supervised,’ he says. Thubisi adds: ‘I was so angry that they were treating me like this, my heart was beating very fast. But even if you complain, nothing changes. I came back home and had to use traditional medicine. I’m still using the traditional medicine because I still have the pain.’
For Tebogo Maseola one of the biggest problems is that people don’t even know who to complain to. He says: ‘It’s like, if you are poor and you have no money, then you have no right to complain. You will never ask to speak to top management, and the nurses know this. We always hear this “Batho Pele” story, but we don’t see it here. Old and young are hopeless, we are the ones who feel the pinch,’ he says.
‘It’s like, if you are poor and you have no money, then you have no right to complain. You will never ask to speak to top management, and the nurses know this. We always hear this “Batho Pele” story, but we don’t see it here. Old and young are hopeless, we are the ones who feel the pinch.’
The older generation in Thaba Nchu remembers a time when the Moraka Hospital offered reason to be proud. It ran an efficient TB unit and operations went smoothly and people actually got better after a hospital stay. But that was over 10 years ago. Now they complain that the hospital stinks of urine and when patients have spilled their food, no one cleans it up. Nurses and staff are arrogant, and patients have to bring their own pyjamas and linen. If someone presents with a serious medication condition they’re usually sent off with the instruction ‘go to Bloemfontein’ – it’s a trip that will take about an hour and will cost around R80, one way.
‘We are 100 percent swallowing this apartheid from our own brothers,’ says Maseola.
The hospital management will not answer a single question or query about the complaints and concerns from the community. They will not make one comment. They fall back on the convenient cop-out of ‘following protocol’ and ‘procedure’ and redirect everything back to rovincial government headquarters, Bophelo House in Bloemfontein. It may be a good enough response for a officials sitting in the comfort of an office – but it’s another slap in the face for those who just want to be treated like human beings.