Joubertina Hospital closed at night since November

Joubertina Community Healthcare Centre in Koukamma Municipality stopped receiving patients at night after a robbery last year. Despite calls by local residents and political leaders, night shift duty remains suspended.

According to a media release issued by the police last year 23 November 2019, at about 1:30am that day, two men arrived at the hospital pretending to be ill. They overpowered the security guard and tied him up. The suspects then went to the reception area and overpowered the cashier and staff on duty. Three more suspects arrived. The pharmacy was broken into and an unknown amount of items were taken. The staff were also robbed of their cellphones and cash. Two hospital vehicles were also stolen, but were both recovered after being abandoned about 15km outside Joubertina, towards Port Elizabeth, the media statement said.

Captain Gerda Swart of SAPS confirmed that the case is “still under investigation”.

According to the chairperson of the clinic committee, Koko Yona, the healthcare centre serves people from Loutewater, Misgund, Joubertina, Kerkeel, Upper Langkloof and surrounding farms. The facility currently operates from 7am until 7pm.

“Anyone who gets sick after and before these working hours should go to the nearest hospital which is in Kareedouw, 45km away, from here or wait until we open again,” he said.

He said staff were traumatized by the robbery and were given counselling.

“Since that robbery last year the whole staff – the nurses, guards, clerks, cashiers and cleaners – felt insecure to work at night at the hospital. Then we asked the sub district health manager to beef up our security. We asked for surveillance cameras and burglar gates so that no one can easily enter the hospital,” he said.

Article continues below...

“Three weeks back we met with the district manager again to find out about the progress that has been made regarding our security request. He said he had just received the tender procurement documents.”

“For a short term solution, we are busy asking for donors to help us with temporary security measures,” said Yona.

Natasha Snyman, who went to the facility for treatment, said, “In the past we were never turned away … But since that robbery we are being turned away back home and asked to come back the following day. The gates are closed at 6pm and only those already inside will be attended to.”

“At night we really struggle. The ambulances take too long to arrive or not arrive at all. We have to wait until the following day or drive all the way to Kareedouw Hospital,” she said.

Neil Plaatjies, Joubertina Community leader, said, “The Department is gambling with people’s lives. On weekends there are a lot of stabbings here … The ambulances take too long to arrive because they come all the way from Humansdorp. The ambulance drivers get lost when they arrive here because they are not familiar with the area. The hospital was playing a big role by operating day and night.”

Judy Ngoloyi, spokesperson for Eastern Cape Heath MEC Sindiswa Gomba, said, “In the next financial year, starting in April, the department will be procuring additional security measures such as surveillance system for Joubertina Hospital. The services would then return to normal.”

First published on Ground Up