By Ufrieda Ho
Nurses are giving Cecilia Mokole dirty looks. Mokole meets their stares. She doesn’t care anymore what they think, or what they may do to her for speaking out.
She’s been edging her way to front of the queue at the Dr JS Moroka hospital one spot at a time in Thaba’Nchu in the Free State since 10am. Now, at nearly 5pm, she’s still in the hospital queue waiting for someone to attend to her leg.
It’s a Tuesday morning. At the weekend she fell and her leg swelled. When the pain became unbearable she knew she had to get to her local clinic – the Mokwena Clinic.
“They gave me a referral letter to come to the hospital because the pain has been so bad that I haven’t been able to sleep at night. So I came here today. I’ve waited the whole day but I don’t know if I’ll even get medicines because the dispensary closed at 4pm already,” she says.
“I really am fed up with this hospital. It’s not like a hospital; it’s like a clinic. They must hire more people. Now I must sit and wait till the doctor on night duty comes,” says Mokole, her leg resting on the bench.
In the queue of benches is a child on a drip, lying on his mother’s lap. Another eight patients are just sitting quietly as sun dips towards the horizon. No one complains, except for Mokole. Even this makes her mad. She’s tired that people have to put up with bad service and that everyone is forced to keep silent because of the threat of being treated poorly.
She has her grandchild on her lap, babysitting him so her daughter can get some food for them because Mokole thinks it will be a long night. Even at 5pm she doesn’t believe her wait is over.
And she is right. At 8.15pm she sends an SMS. She’s finally been attended to and been given a pain injection, but she has to return the next day for an X-ray to determine whether she has broken her leg.
Each trip to and from the hospital costs her R40.
Still, the next morning she’s back at the hospital. She has no choice: she has to get the X-ray. She has to get pain tablets.
She takes up her seat on the waiting benches.
The waiting begins all over again.
Ufrieda Ho is a Journalist