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Torched facility up and running

Eight months after the torching of Ikhwezi Clinic forced the facility’s closure, the refurbished health facility finally reopened its doors last week.

The Nomzamo healthcare centre was left in ruins after a petrol bomb was flung at the building during unrest stemming from a land squabble in the area last year (“Clinic left in ruin”, DistrictMail, 6 June 2019).

It was reopened by officials of the City of Cape Town’s health department last Thursday (30 January).

The facility’s closure forced many patients to make a longer trek to the provincial government-run Nomzamo Community Day Centre, while others were referred to healthcare facilities in surrounding areas.

City Health was forced to fork out R8,1 million for necessary repairs to the damaged Ikhwezi Clinic, said Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee member for Community Services and Health. Only R4,9 million of this total cost was covered by the insurance claim.

“The rest of the budget had to come from other deserving capital projects, which had to be placed on hold,” he said.

“The medicines and vaccines stored in the pharmacy alone were worth R1 million, but the cost of this irrational act goes well beyond the budget that was spent.”

Furthermore, planned and budgeted upgrades to the facility such as the painting of the facility, extension of the reception and staff room, and addition of more toilets for staff and patients will no longer happen, Badroodien explained.

“Clients who abandoned their treatment due to the inconvenience of having to visit another facility will pay the price of disease progression, while children who did not receive immunisation on their due dates are vulnerable to outbreaks of disease,” he said.

“We’ll never know how many unwanted pregnancies will result from family planning methods that were not given in time or the extent of the spread of disease because it was not diagnosed in time.”

Ikhwezi is one of the biggest City Health facilities, with an average of 500 patients seen daily. It also has the biggest number of patients on anti-retroviral treatment (5 238) and treats approximately 500 clients for TB per year.

At last week’s re-launch of the facility, Ward 86 councillor Jongidumo Maxheke apologised for what had led to the closure of the facility and the inconvenience caused for many residents. “What happened here is recklessness that is difficult to comprehend,” he said.

“It defeats the mind how people will come to such a conclusion and decide to burn a clinic, which services the same community in which they reside.”

Nomalizo Pikisha, a resident and member of the Ikhwezi Health Committee, spoke of the hurt she felt after being informed the clinic had been partially destroyed in the fire and applauded the clinic’s nursing staff for the work they conduct daily.

“It hurt me in such a way that I couldn’t even come here to see the extent of the damage of the arson attack,” she exclaimed.

“Those who attacked Ikhwezi could not have been thinking straight. At this place, an important and essential service is rendered to the community.”

Badroodien also paid tribute to clinic staff and a private doctor who took it upon himself to treat all children with HIV free of charge, along with others who had gone beyond the call of duty to ensure service delivery continued throughout the clinic’s closure.

No-one has been arrested for the arson attack. The City is offering a R50 000 reward for information that will lead to the arrest and successful conviction of those responsible for the attack. Anyone with information can call the local police station or CrimeStop on 10111.

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