Finetown residents celebrate opening of community clinic after four-year wait
Residents of Finetown in Gauteng have been campaigning for a new clinic since the area’s mobile health facility was razed in protests in 2019. Now, the new Finetown Clinic has finally opened its doors.
The long-awaited Finetown Clinic finally opened its doors to the community on Thursday, 6 July, after years of pressure from residents, civil society organisations and political parties.
Walking into the new two-storey facility, which had been plagued by repeated delays in opening, guests were greeted by the local choir as they awaited the arrival of Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.
Despite the clinic not yet operating at full capacity, it was buzzing with department officials, clinic staff, curious residents and patients, young and old, seeking various services.
In May 2023, Daily Maverick reported on the unhappiness of Finetown residents who lamented the fact that the clinic, which was completed in 2020, remained closed, making much-needed health services inaccessible and causing considerable suffering to residents.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘We are suffering’: Gauteng’s Finetown clinic remains shuttered three years after being built
Opening the clinic on Thursday, Nkomo-Ralehoko was ushered to the podium with a song by the choir. The lyrics, translated from Zulu: “Nomantu, please open our clinic, our people are sick, we are the only community that does not have our own clinic, Ennerdale already has theirs.”
Nkomo-Ralehoko told residents that the opening of the clinic was a significant milestone for the Gauteng Department of Health in addressing disparities in the health system when it came to providing services.
“We want to ease the pressure on neighbouring communities like Lenasia and bring back your dignity,” she said.
The MEC said the opening of the Finetown Clinic signalled a new way of operating, where patients would be greeted with “a smile”, starting with the security guards at the gate.
Nkomo-Ralehoko called out her cellphone number, urging anyone who received poor treatment from clinic staff to report this to her.
Read more in Daily Maverick: In the hot seat — New Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko responds to 10 questions
She also encouraged residents to take care of the clinic, saying that if it was burnt down by protestors as the previous clinic was in 2019, the department would not replace it.
She insisted the Gauteng health department was undergoing a “clean-up” to make it run more efficiently and that non-performing staff who compromised patient care and services would be rooted out. She also committed to installing cameras inside medical facilities to monitor staff in the provision of services.
While there was much dancing and jubilation from the community, the officials did not afford the residents an opportunity to voice their opinions on the opening. Residents were also not permitted inside the clinic while the MEC and her entourage toured the facility.
Speaking to Daily Maverick earlier this year, local resident Beauty Moletsane asked: “How long are we supposed to wait for the clinic to be opened? We have many old people like myself who need clinic services, but now I have to wake up at 4am to go and queue at the clinic in Ennerdale.”
Now, Moletsane says she is very happy the clinic has finally opened.
“It’s been a long time. We’ve been waiting since 2020 and we can now receive the services that are right for us, especially people that have disabilities and need things like wheelchairs.
‘Lack of acknowledgement’
“While we are happy, I did not like that the residents who have been trying to help with the opening of the clinic, like volunteer community patrollers, were not even acknowledged, thanked or given a chance to speak today.
“People should have been given a chance to speak for themselves.”
Funeka Manzi, a programme manager at Accountability Lab, one of the civil society organisations assisting the community, told Daily Maverick: “We’re pleased and relieved about the news that Finetown Clinic will finally be in operation.
“This has been a long battle for the community and we at Action for Accountability [a project implemented by Accountability Lab and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation] have been fighting tirelessly for the rights of the people in Finetown.
“They will no longer be denied their fundamental right to healthcare. We will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that the rights of the Finetown community are upheld and protected.”
Nonkosi Maliti, a resident and community activist with Action for Accountability, told Daily Maverick, “We are so happy that this day has finally come… It is a victory for us. We will however still work towards the department addressing our other concerns, such as the issue of staffing in the clinic. At the moment, the staff is on loan from other facilities, so they must still advertise for posts.
“We would like the department to be transparent with the community when they start the staffing process and also explain to people how the application process works.
“Many people still use paper CVs, but we see the application process is online, so they need to explain to people how to do this.” DM