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Vhembe health services in crisis

Shortages of water, too few healthcare workers, and too much undergrowth providing cover for snakes are among challenges faced by patients using public health facilities in Vhembe, Limpopo.

Mulatedzi Ramaano, deputy president of the Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union (Haitu), said the provincial health department is failing the people of Limpopo.

“None of the hospitals in Vhembe is offering renal dialysis services to patients suffering from kidney failure. Patients are forced to travel long hours to other parts of the province or country for such services,” Ramaano told Scrolla.Africa.

He also criticised the lack of doctors and nurses in public health facilities.

“We are faced with a critical shortage of healthcare workers in Vhembe. Patients are forced to wait long hours before they can be assisted,” Ramaano said.

He said that Haitu in Vhembe has been receiving numerous complaints from healthcare workers about the poor conditions of public health facilities.

“Most of the facilities have been left unmaintained for months if not years. They have bushes all over, which puts the lives of both patients and healthcare workers at risk, as bushes have the potential to harbour dangerous creatures such as snakes.“

Even more dangerous is the lack of running water.

For years, facilities such as Elim and Tshilidzini hospitals have been battling countless water cuts. In Dumasi village outside Thohoyandou, the recently built state-of-the-art Magwedzha Clinic, which opened at the beginning of 2023, is operating without a water supply.

Because of the water shortages, the clinic does not assist pregnant women in giving birth, despite having the necessary equipment.

An old clinic situated next to the new state-of-the-art building had borehole water.

Gladys Mulaudzi*, a staff nurse stationed at Magwedzha Clinic, said: “The old clinic used to have running water, and services – such as helping women to deliver babies – used to be offered there.”

Provincial health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said renal dialysis is currently only being done in Polokwane.

“But plans are in an advanced stage to get the services decentralised to Tshilidzini and Letaba regional hospitals,” said Shikwambana.

He said they are still investigating why there is no water at Magwedzha Clinic.

He also acknowledged a shortage of healthcare workers in the province.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the source.

Pictured above: The recently-built Magwedzha Clinic and the locked gate of the unmaintained old Magwedzha Clinic.

Image source: Supplied