VIDEO: Emmanuel Haven's HIV-positive patients vow to fight closure

BY AFIKILE LUGUNYA - APRIL 11, 2017
VIDEO: Emmanuel Haven's HIV-positive patients vow to fight closure

HIV-positive patients, who depend on the Emmanuel Haven Wellness Centre, which is based in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth, for care and Anti-Retroviral treatments are refusing to consent to a process that will see them being transferred to their community clinics.

Established in 2000, the centre’s vision was to create an HIV-free Motherwell - the largest township in Port Elizabeth. However, over the years, it has grown to cater for HIV positive patients, who come from other various townships around Port Elizabeth.

Chatty resident, Nwabiswa Phantsi, tells RNEWS that she is one of many patients, who choose to travel long distances to get to the clinic.

“At this clinic, we are not discriminated in anyway. We are like a family and that is one of the reasons why I come to Emmanuel Haven not that at Chatty we don’t have a clinic,” Phantsi says.

Responsible for creating this environment is Masumpa Ramolahlei. He is the only volunteer left at the clinic and is forced to juggle his time as an educator, caregiver, counsellor, receptionist and the person, who hands out the ARV medication to the clinic’s patients.

Perhaps given this circumstance, the Eastern Cape Department of Health is understood to be in the process of relocating the centre’s remaining patients to their local clinics so that it can close it down.

To complicate matters, Ramolahlei says he has been offered a fulltime job at Motherwell’s NU8 Clinic – a great opportunity to finally earn a monthly income for his family after volunteering for many years at the centre.

Still, he feels bad about abandoning people he has known for so many years now that they need him more than ever.

“This is really hard for me, because if I leave them here, who will have the passion to do what I was doing, but I have a family to take care of - so this is really hard,” he tells RNEWS.

Ramolahlei says he knew that this day would eventually come since 2015, when the Department informed that the clinic would be shut down “because it is not registered”.

“In 2015, they said that the clinic will be closed, but during the process of the elections, we were promised that it will not be closed. Now that we voted for them, they no longer care about what will happen to us,” he describes.

The clinic’s patients were then given transfers to sign, so that they can be accepted at their local clinics, some did sign them – but others have refused to sign opting to fight the closure.

A patient at Emmanuel Haven Wellness Centre, Velisile Mbombo, says; “Signing the transfers is a trap. They want us to sign them, so that they will have the authority to kick us out of the clinic.

“They must kick us out without signing the forms, so that we will see that they really want us to die.”

Another patient, Ntombelanga Langmaan, agrees with Mbombo; “We refuse to be tricked into signing those forms, we will fight till the end to make sure that this clinic remains open.”

The patients claim that they are discriminated at their community clinics and that their status is disclosed without their consent as they are made to stand in separate lines according to the illness. This is why many would travel long distances to come to Emmanuel Haven.

A sister in charge in one of the community clinics in Motherwell refused to comment on these claims.

Thobeka Jola, who used to volunteer at Emmanuel Wellness Centre, between 2009 and 2012, says the patients must fight on.

“What the government is doing is making me very angry. They use us to get our votes, but after the elections, they don’t care about us.

“If the clinic closes, many people will suffer,” she describes.

“At this clinic there is no stress when one comes to collect their medication. At this clinic, patients don’t wait the whole day for the treatment like they do at the community clinics. If you come here at 10 by half past 10 you leave.”

At the time of publishing, we were still to receive responses from the Department of Health’s District Office.