Nobody can say when the Ikhwezi Clinic in Nomzamo will be up and running again after the facility was gutted following a petrol bomb attack last Friday morning (31 May).
Scores of patients were left standing outside the premises after the attack, which took place around 02:00.
The clinic has sustained extensive damage to its roof and interior, including the pharmacy and records room, where patient folders were kept.
“The incident is believed to have taken place in the early hours of the morning,” said police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Gama.
“Suspects petrol-bombed the building three times, setting it alight.”
A case of arson has been opened.
The destruction has seen the City of Cape Town issuing a R50 000 reward to anyone who can come forward with information which will lead to the arrest of the culprits.
An initial estimate put the damage to the property at R10 million, but this may vary.
When DistrictMail arrived on the scene on the day, aside from the tell-tale smell of smoke, scores of patients and onlookers were milling outside the gates as clinic personnel stood inside taking stock of all the damage.
Nkululeko Swartbooi (59), an affected patient who had used the clinic since 2002, said: “Today I was supposed to have my blood test and receive my medication. I am very disturbed by this, as its impact will be dire, not only to me, but many who get help from this facility,” he related.
“To me this was the closest clinic and we have established relationships with the staff here. If now we have to go to Nomzamo Healthcare Centre, which means I must wake up at 02:00 to walk to the clinic and that is not safe at all.”
Another patient Dora Ndlovu (44) said her appointment was at 09:00 on that fateful day.
“I am very down after finding I will not be assisted today because of this fire,” she said. “Our parents depend on this clinic. Where will they go now? My mother was supposed to come here next Friday (tomorrow) and I don’t know what we will do with her. This hurts and inconveniences us a great deal.”
Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee member for Community Services and Health, who visited the facility, was alerted to the situation around 06:00 on the day.
“We have been in contact with the most senior health officials concerning why this would have happened at the facility in the first place,” he said.
“Also, to figure out what the impact would be on the surrounding areas, which is really the biggest concern because here we have a better facility that serves a large community of thousands.”
Badroodien said it was sad for him to walk around looking at burnt files, realising each represents a person who will now be directly affected by lack of access to care, medication and other facilities that are located far away.
“This will have a direct impact on our elderly, HIV patients and TB patients who access services and chronic medication,” he pointed out. “Elderly people, especially, may not know all the medication they are on and now the nurses and doctors will have to guess these things.
“These people tend to put all their medication into one packet, and may not know the names of the medication.”
According to Badroodien, this was “very worrying and concerning” for other facilities of the Helderberg region if communities, in their anger, burn facilities which perform critical functions through its services.
Ikhwezi is the biggest City Health facility, with an average 500 patients per day that are seen.
The facility also has the biggest cohort of patients on anti-retroviral treatment – 5 238 – and treats approximately 500 patients for tuberculosis per year.
The clinic will be closed indefinitely until necessary repairs are completed.
In the interim, residents will have to make use of the Nomzamo Community Health Centre, the clinic closest to Ikhwezi now, which may well impact the quality of healthcare in the community.
Gama said police were seeking public assistance in locating those involved in the torching of Ikhwezi Clinic.
Police requested that anyone who may have witnessed the incident or saw the culprits committing this criminal act contact Lwandle police detective Constable Mfundo Soyiyo on 021 845 2060.
He added that they are offering a reward to anyone who comes with positive information.
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