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Kao community demands opening of unused clinic

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

The community of Kao in Botha Bothe, represented by the Kao Community Association, appeared before the portfolio committee of the social cluster to demand the opening of a long-awaited healthcare clinic.

Almost a year ago, in May 2023, Kao Mine handed over a fully equipped health clinic to the community, but it has remained closed ever since. The facility, including a nurses’ dormitory, a guard house, and five two-room houses, was celebrated for advancing universal health access in the area.

Newsday reported that the health post, which came with solar energy connections, was expected to ease the burden on the community, who had to travel 15-20 kilometers to the nearest clinic in Rampai village.

Botha-Bothe District Health Director, Dr. Lebohang Sao, praised Kao Mine for their noble gesture during the handover ceremony. However, a year later, the clinic remains closed, leaving villagers to bear the brunt.

The chairperson of the association, Tseko Ratia, told the parliamentary committee that their plea is for the Ministry of Health to provide staff and the necessary equipment for the clinic to function.

“Kao Mine built a health center with residences for staff, solar panels, and water,” Ratia said.

“This is a lot of work done by the mine. What is left is for the government to play its part to ensure that the clinic opens,” he added.

Ratia indicated that without the clinic, the community is subjected to walking long distances to the nearest clinic, exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

“The nearest clinic to us currently is at Ha Rampai, where one has to walk at least 15 kilometers. Our main concern is for pregnant women and children who have to walk such distances,” he said.

Ratia recounted a tragic incident from 2018 to highlight the urgency.

“Due to harsh weather conditions, a woman gave birth on her way to the clinic and lost the baby. The heavy rains made travel almost impossible as the rivers were overflowing. As she tried to reach the clinic, she lost her baby. We do not want such tragedies to happen again, which is why we urgently need the clinic opened,” he stated.

He disclosed that the clinic constructed by Kao was officially handed over to the community on May 11, 2023, and since then, it has not been functional.

Rethabile Khama, a member of the association committee, shared Ratia’s sentiments, stressing the absurdity of having such a facility remain unused.

“It is shameful that infrastructure is built in the country and is not used. That facility must be opened to avoid being damaged,” Khama said.

He stressed that the community needs healthcare providers who will work at the facility full-time, not just during outreach programs.

According to Khama, they wrote to the Ministry of Health about their concern to no avail.

“When we tried to talk to the Minister of Health about the issue, his response was that he had no idea about the facility. That is why we came to the committee to assist us in making sure that someone responsible does what they have to do,” he explained.

Mamello Phooko, a member of the Social Cluster Committee, noted that it seemed the Ministry of Health was not as involved as it should have been, which hindered timely addressing of the issue.

Phooko instructed the Principal Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Health to gather the necessary information and begin working on ensuring the clinic is opened to save lives. “The Ministry also needs to find out and understand the scope of the clinic donation by Kao,” she said.

Ministry of Health’s PS, ‘Maneo Moliehi Ntene, thanked the community association for bringing the matter to the attention of the committee, allowing the ministry to be informed about the clinic.

Ntene disclosed that the Ministry of Health, together with the Ministry of Public Service, was working on recruiting staff for the newly built Maseru Regional Hospital and other clinics. The Kao clinic will be included in this project to ensure it becomes operational, she said.

Ntene added that the main problem facing the ministry was that nurses often leave the country for better job opportunities abroad.

The Chairman of the Social Cluster, Mokhothu Makhalanyane, instructed the PS to devise a temporary solution while planning for a permanent one.

“We are talking about people’s lives, so something needs to be done soonest. I urge you, PS, to find a temporary solution, even if it means only two nurses are made available to open the clinic. If there are delays on the ministry’s side, please seek assistance from development partners and ensure that by June 1, the clinic is open while a permanent plan is being made,” Makhalanyane instructed.

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