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Gang violence cripples city health services

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Ongoing gang violence in Manenberg has resulted in services being disrupted at the local clinic as well as the recently launched Manenberg substance abuse treatment site. With daily gang cross fire, city staff have been forced to work under extremely volatile conditions.

The City of Cape Town’s Health Directorate said it has noticed a marked impact on its ability to render services in Manenberg in recent weeks as a result of ongoing gang violence.

Staff have reported a drop in group attendance and the assessment numbers at the new substance abuse treatment site. Feedback received from patients is that they are unable to honour their appointments as they fear for their safety. This has affected the continuity of the programme as well as the patient’s treatment progress. Some new patients, when enquiring about the service, have also expressed concerns about their safety.

“The gangs are effectively holding us hostage. It is very difficult to provide healthcare under these circumstances and I would appeal to those involved in the conflict to bear in mind that they are effectively denying their neighbours and more than likely their own families the opportunity of a better quality of life,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli.

“I appeal to the South African Police Service to step up their patrols around our facilities in a bid to ensure safe passage for our clients as well as our staff. I will continue engaging with the City’s law enforcement agencies about their assistance and I also call on residents to help by blowing the whistle on criminal and gang activity so that we may see a normalisation of the situation in Manenberg.”

City Health has received several requests for staff transfers to other sites. This could potentially result in the clinic being left without adequate professionally trained staff to assist the clients and the community. Stock deliveries to the facilities are also affected, as well as transport routes to and from the clinic for service providers, staff members and clients.

“Manenberg Clinic as well as the substance abuse treatment site have had to be closed early every time there is an eruption of violence, because we cannot compromise the safety of our staff and clients. Every time we are forced to close our doors, we are denying the community access to critical health services,” said Mamkeli.

All of the planned outreach programmes, including tracking defaulting patients for various programmes, have been cancelled due to the violence. Statistics indicate that the clinic is failing to meet its targets on indicators such as HIV testing, cervical cancer screening and immunisations because clients are simply not willing to risk their safety to visit the clinic.

“The situation is also impacting on oversight visits by management and other support services,” added Mamkeli.


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