#Vote4Health: Visuals of Northern Cape collapse

Health services in large parts of the Northern Cape have virtually collapsed with communities mostly being served by overstretched nurses struggling to cope with the disease and injury burden. The challenges are overwhelming. Qualified doctors, specialists and professional nurses are as scarce as water in this arid province. Health facilities are poorly serviced with basic services such as emergency medical services, cleaning and infection control, drug and basic medical supply stocks, mortuaries, standard operating hours, trauma and mental health services virtually non-existent in most towns. Last November Spotlight travelled a circular route through the province and clocked up about 2 000 kilometres of dirt and tar road. We passed through towns and small outposts, some just blips on the radar long past their heyday. Signposts hinting at suffering whizz by – Sweetfontein (Perspiration Fountain), Omdraaisvlei (Turnback Vlei), Uitlvlug (Flee Away) and so on. We slowed and at times paused in Middelpos, Sutherland, Fraserburg, Loxton, Victoria West, Britstown, De Aar, Prieska, Groblershoop, Upington, Keimoes, Kakamas, Kenhardt, Brandvlei, Calvinia and Nieuwoudtville..

There are many stories to tell and many issues to highlight which we try to do in our main story. However, there are many images to share. Thom Pierce joined the team and captured a collection of images that try to tell a visual story of this arid, beautiful, suffering province.

Dare to care: Retired nurse Marguerite Jordaan on her farm Matjiesfontein, about 32km outside Sutherland.
Desolation: The road out of Sutherland
Horror story: Nigel October is a pump attendant at Sutherland’s only filling station. Like most residents he has a horror story to tell of needing emergency care, the hellish trip in the back of ambulance on a dirt road, being sent from Calvinia to Worcester and then back to Laingsburg where he is told to find his own way home. “Ambualances just dump patients and you have to find your own way,” he says. “At the clinic they sometimes treat us like animals, not like humans.”


Death and dying: Family graveyards are a regular sighting on the farm roads. Closer inspection often reveals infant graves, hints of inaccessible healthcare way back. This one was on the road between Middelpos and Sutherland.
Round and round: Wind pumps dot in the vast emptiness of the Northern Cape.
Neverending: The R356 that winds through the Northern Cape desert between Sutherland and Fraserburg. Session doctors and ambulances have to travel this road.
Road to somewhere: The R356 that winds through the Northern Cape desert between Sutherland and Fraserburg.
Dodgy health: Fraserburg Community Health Centre.
Dead and buried: Hundreds of stones mark unnamed graves as you pass Prieska.
Looting: At the old hospital in De Aar the buildings have been torn apart and the roof panels stolen.
Free for all: The wreckage of the old hospital in De Aar which has been ransacked.
Shiny and new: Bespoke signage for the new De Aar Hospital.
Road to health: The walkway leading to the entrance of the new De Aar hospital, complete with bespoke pillars and an irrigation system.
Inside and out: The outside of the new De Aar hospital has been designed with modern benches and walkways.
Land for health: Land that is still to be developed – the overgrown site for the next phase of the already over specced De Aar hospital.
Neverending: The road between De Aar and Prieska.
Helping hand: An elderly man is helped through the streets of Prieska in his wheelchair.
Road to nowhere: The long, straight road leaving Prieska.
Going home: This man was dropped next to the road by ambulance and left to walk a few kilometres to his home in 30 deg C. He still had a raw wound from major abdominal surgery.
Augrabies Health Care Clinic. One of the small town clinics outside Kakamas, where patients wait on the floor for the nurses to arrive.
Waiting for healthcare.: Mothers and their children outside the Augrabies Health Care Clinic near Kakamas.
Mothers and children, waiting all morning for healthcare. Augrabies Health Care Clinic outside Kakamas.
Dirty water and waste next to patients waiting at Augrabies Health Care Clinic
Dirty waiting game: Dirty water and waste next to patients waiting at Augrabies Health Care Clinic.
Waiting for healthcare at Augrabies Health Care Clinic outside Kakamas.
No Ambulance: Waiting for healthcare at Augrabies Health Care Clinic outside Kakamas.
An informal rubbish dump just outside of the Augrabies Healthcare Clinic.
The lush vines of the the grape producing vineyards outside Augrabies. Some of the world’s best table grapes and raisins come from this region.
No accountability: Almost none of the clinics Spotlight visited operated in accordance with the stated hours. Most of them were not open yet late morning. This is Marchand Clinic. No nurse was there when Spotlight went.
Waiting outside Alheit Primary Health Care Clinic. No nurse in sight.
Debris and waste at Keimoes hospital.
A bathroom inside Keimoes hospital, allowed to fall into disrepair.
Toilets are now used as storerooms in Keimoes Hospital.
Bio-hazard waste is left unsealed and unattended at Keimoes Hospital.
A mother watches over her sick newborn at Keimoes Hospital.
Behind another unlocked door we find cylinders and biohazard disposal units.
The locked and deserted mortuary at Keimoes hospital.

One Reply to “#Vote4Health: Visuals of Northern Cape collapse”

  1. Hi Tried to tell my story for several years now.
    I worked at Sutherland CHC for 2 years. Driving 50km to work on dirt road. Working with minimum staff.
    Then after that, I worked at Fraserburg Clinic for only 3months, I could handle it anymore. No disciplined and shortage of staff. We were only 2 sisters, one RN and I was the CNP. Limited emergency medicine and almost no surgical.
    I drive 70km to Fraserburg each day,
    The staff at Head Office aren’t very helpful.
    Due to the drought I need to work. But where? I also want to work because I am born a NURSE !!

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