Frustrated patients have signed a petition over conditions at the Gugulethu Community Dental Clinic in Cape Town.
Among the complaints are a lack of anaesthetic and no oral hygienist on most days. As the clinic only accepts 40 people per day, patients said they queued as early as 04:00, adding this exposed them to criminals, GroundUp reports.
When GroundUp arrived at 08:00 on Tuesday, people were being turned away because the daily quota of patients had already been met.
“I got number 52, so I was turned back. I arrived here at around 06:30 and I come from Philippi,” a woman, who did not want to give her name, told GroundUp.
Inside the packed purple waiting room, there were primary and high pupils as well as the elderly.
Ndumiso Mzazi of the Movement for Change and Social Justice (MCSJ) – an alliance of organisations aiming to improve health, safety and social services in and around Gugulethu – said nothing had changed since they staged a protest over conditions at the clinic in 2018.
The MCSJ has set up a petition that currently has 66 signatories.
“We will take this petition to the relevant people that includes the Gugulethu police station and health department. Something needs to be done because people are suffering,” said Mzazi.
Connie Gcwabe, who arrived at the clinic at about 06:00, said the police should patrol the area in the mornings.
“We get mugged out there, and some of the muggers are the same people who stand in queues, holding places for people. And we cannot continue paying people R30 and R40 to hold places in the queue and then people rock up any time they please.”
A nurse, who has been working at the clinic for seven years, said: “The reason we do not allow people to come in and prefer them to wait outside the gate is because back then when we would open the gate at 07:00, before we start operating at 08:00, you would find that things inside the clinic are vandalised. People are smoking inside. Things like plants are stolen. So that is where the decision of letting people queue outside the gate comes from.”
The nurse added the clinic did not have a designated oral hygienist, partly because patients do not honour their appointments.
The spokesperson for the provincial health department, Monique Johnstone, said: “The Gugulethu Dental Clinic made the decision to accept 40 patients daily due to a national stockout of lignocaine adrenaline which is the main drug used in local anaesthetic for dental treatment…
“The facility will be receiving new stock by the end of the week which will result in an improved service.”
Johnstone added the clinic had two dentists on duty from Monday to Friday and an oral hygienist on Fridays as well as an additional locum dentist on Wednesdays.