Cold wait at D6 clinic

People queue outside District Six day hospital from as early as 5am, with no shelter from the elements.

With temperatures plummeting, visitors to the District Six day hospital are frustrated that they have to queue in the cold and rain while waiting for the clinic to open.

District Six day hospital opened its doors in February, after two of the oldest day hospitals in the area, the Woodstock and Robbie Nurock community day centres, officially closed their doors to merge and provide a comprehensive healthcare package in the new District Six Community Day Centre in Caledon Street.

The facility is built on the grounds of the old Peninsula Hospital.

The District Six CDC’s services are offered to a population of
70 000 from Woodstock, Salt River, Vredehoek, Bo-Kaap, City Bowl, and other surrounding areas, as well as clients commuting into the CBD.

And although the clinic encourages people to make appointments if they want to be seen, patients visiting the day hospital start queuing from as early as 5am to avoid spending the entire day waiting to see a nurse or doctor, or to wait for their medication.

The facility opens its doors at 7am, which means patients have to queue outside, with no protection from the rain or cold, if they arrive early.

Often, by 6am, a long line of patients can be seen snaking around the side of the building.

Faizel Doutie, who came all the way from Lentegeur, said he arrived at 5am to be in the front of the queue. “We have to sit on these concrete benches while waiting for the place to open,” he told CapeTowner. “They say it is better but the service is worse than 25 years back. There is no system here. People get sick over and over again because they have to sit in the cold.”

Desmond Kleinbaai said he had been at the clinic the previous day, but had had to return for his medication.

“The lines inside are long. We come here at 5am only to leave at 10am. They give us appointments for 8am but everyone’s appointments are the same.”

Mohammad Saed Sirkhotte suggested the hospital build shelters for the people sitting outside until 7am.

“There are also a lot more people coming here, so they need more staff.

“They give appointments but (people are seen on) a first come, first served basis.”

Mary Petersen said as a result of the backlog at the pharmacy, people have to return for their medication. “There are people from last week still waiting for medication,” she said. “Something is wrong here.”

Patricia Thomas from Plumstead said there was no privacy at the facility. “I used to visit Woodstock day hospital, and doctors had their own rooms. Now, the doctors have cubicles.”

Monique Johnstone, the principle communications officer at the Western Cape Department of Health, said the District Six CDC’s operational hours were 7am to 4pm from Mondays to Fridays.

“As it is located in the Cape Town CBD, large numbers of commuting working people often choose to access health care close to their work. This, however, contributes to the influx of patients to this facility.”

She said different systems had been put in place to fast-track clients. “Fast lanes have also been created for the aged, disabled and children.”

She said while the the health departments’ infrastructure department had included plans for shelter for clients, they had not been able to erect this due to space constraints.

However, said Ms Johnstone: “The undercover area at the entrance is opened by security during rainy weather to allow patients to stand undercover. (But) patients do not want to stand undercover sometimes for fear of losing their place in the queue.

“Appointment times are given for a reason – so that patients can avoid long queues, therefore, we encourage patients to honour their appointment times and dates.”

She said there were clinical, safety and security risks associated with allowing patients into the facility before it officially opened, as staff only came on duty at 7am.

Ms Johnstone added that they were currently working on introducing a new appointment system and that the department would investigate the complaints about the pharmacy.

“The pharmacy team has a daily operational meeting to discuss operational issues and the way forward for improved medication dispensing to clients. Clients are informed daily of these 30 minute morning meetings from 7:30am to 8am.”

In response to a complaint that there were only three parking bays specifically allocated for the disabled, Ms Johnstone said: “Parking is limited in the CBD. The facility was allocated a certain amount of parking bays, of which two have been allocated for disabled patients.

“Illegal parking has been a constant problem which leads to no parking space for disabled patients wanting to access the bays. Traffic officials patrol the area daily. Security officers at the facility are aware of this and assist in monitoring the access of the disabled bays to ensure that people do not park illegally.

“This is a new facility, and we ask clients to have more patience with staff members, as they are trying their best to provide an effective and efficient service in a new building while trying to work out new systems for better healthcare services,” said Ms Johnstone.