The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has today called for an urgent oversight inspection of the Phoenix Community Health Clinic (CHC) following the news that Starwood Clinic – a separately based facility which provides specialised mental health care – will close at the end of the month, with patients being referred to the CHC.
The move has led to apprehension from both patients and their families who are concerned that the CHC is already overwhelmed by scores of patients while also being understaffed.
Both the DA’s councillors in Phoenix and I have been inundated with complaints regarding the closure of the clinic and in particular being transferred to Phoenix CHC.
Starwood, which was based at the SASSA offices in Phoenix, was unique in KZN as a stand-alone mental health care facility. However, it only received the services of a doctor one day a week.
In most other areas, mental healthcare is integrated into normal clinics. The integration of Starwood as part of the CHC forms part of KZN Health Department’s Ideal Clinic Programme where patients who have various co-morbidities can access care in a “one-stop shop” system and have access to doctors on a daily basis.
Regrettably, the entire Phoenix SASSA office precinct, including Starwood Clinic, has for years been in a very poor state due to lack of maintenance. There was a bird infestation that resulted in droppings affecting people using the office, the roof had numerous leaks and during previous heavy rains a section of roofing collapsed. The toilets were also in a very unhygienic state.
Previously, as the DA’s Social Development Spokesperson in KZN, I pushed for the assessment and renovation of the building. Following a recent and long overdue assessment, the buildings have now been condemned and all three Departments (SASSA, Social Development and Starwood Clinic) housed there have now moved out.
In a recent briefing meeting at Phoenix CHC, which DA councillors attended, it was stated that Starwood patients would be accommodated in their own area within the CHC and that they would also have separate queues in order to access their files in the morning.
It was also revealed that current Starwood Clinic staff would also be transferred to the CHC. Regrettably, there are indications that there is some staff dissatisfaction with this move. It is critical that KZN’s DoH urgently resolve this so that patient care is not affected.
The DA has written to KZN Health Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Hon Nomakiki Majola, to request an urgent inspection of accommodations and other aspects of readiness at the CHC ahead of the official transfer of patients on 1 October.
The Portfolio Committee has an important role to play here. If the DoH plan is to work, then it is critical that everything is done correctly. The people of Phoenix cannot afford to suffer from a further compromised healthcare service.