Opening Of Clinics In The Buthelezi Traditional Area



On behalf of residents of the Buthelezi Traditional Area, I wish to thank the Honourable Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, MEC for Health in KwaZulu Natal, for visiting us today. I would have wanted to be there in person to welcome the MEC and to commend him on the two clinics that are being opened in Ombimbini and KwaHhemlana. However I find myself battling the ‘flu and thought it wise to take time to recover. As a medical doctor, I know that the MEC will agree with my decision.

I therefore asked my Deputy, Mr Mpikayise Buthelezi, to bring you my message of support.

The opening of these two clinics is an important step towards accessible health care for those who need it most. Our Constitution, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the world, enshrines the right to health care. But the lived reality of so many South Africans speaks of a right that is still not achieved. This is particularly the case for those living in rural areas.

Here in the Buthelezi Traditional Area, residents endure more hardship than is necessary. Our people struggle to access services. Sadly, the hardship is faced by many who need medical attention for they have had to walk long distances to get to a clinic. The spatial inequalities we inherited from apartheid have not been fully resolved. There are still too few police stations covering vast areas, too few fire stations, too few schools, and too few clinics. Thus, whenever a new clinic is opened, we must celebrate, because it is a victory and a step towards equality.

I encourage all our residents to support these new clinics. Welcome the nurses and medical staff who operate here. Help them to help us. A clinic is not just a place of last resort when one is gravely ill. We need to use these clinics as information centres and as places where preventative actions are birthed. From these places, knowledge must flow to our communities on nutrition and positive lifestyle options, family planning, and basic screenings for things like diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure.

It is so important that we take ownership of our health, arming ourselves with information and having regular check-ups. I know that mothers are exceptionally good at taking their babies to clinics when they have a cough or a fever. But how many mothers take themselves to the clinic when they feel ill? We need to take care of ourselves, because we must be strong and well to take care of others.

There are many families in which grandmothers are taking care of children as well. Our elderly citizens have additional healthcare needs. I urge our families to take good care of our grandmothers, because we expect a lot from them. If they are ill or in pain, please take them to the clinic. No one should have to live with pain. It steals the joy of living and stops us from doing all that daily life requires of us.

As the MEC will no doubt tell us, there is a rise in lifestyle diseases in South Africa. For years we have fought HIV/Aids with a number of interventions, and clinics remain an important line of defence in this fight. Likewise we have fought TB, which is an opportunistic disease that preys on those with a weak immune system. This doesn’t necessarily mean people with HIV, but indeed anyone who isn’t getting the right amount of vitamins and nutrients in their diet, for their immune system will struggle to fight TB.

But we now face a new onslaught of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure; diseases related to the food we eat, the amount of exercise we get, and the lifestyles we lead. We need to look at health holistically. It is not just about taking medicine to get rid of a troubling symptom. It’s about getting proper nutrition, getting the right exercise, staying away from substance abuse, and getting enough sleep.

I mention substance abuse because there are many, particularly among the youth, who don’t seem to make the connection between things like drinking and liver damage, or smoking and lung disease. We pay for the things we do to our bodies; if not now, then certainly later. If you want to be healthy in ten years’ time, if you want to have the energy and strength to be a successful entrepreneur, or musician, or soccer player, you had better walk away now from the things that damage your health.

It is very important that I mention another aspect of healthcare that is often overlooked, and that is mental wellbeing. Many of our youth, in particular, are struggling with depression and anxiety because of the pressures of economic distress and the unavailability of jobs. Mental health is no different to physical health. If you are struggling with depression, it is just as important to get help as it would be if you were in physical pain.

There is no shame in getting help. It takes a strong and intelligent person to use the resources at their disposal to make the most of life. Why keep limping if a doctor can take the thorn out your foot? Why keep struggling with emotional distress if a doctor can check for a chemical imbalance that is easily fixed, or if a counsellor can talk you through a difficult decision?

As we open these clinics, it is my hope that many will be helped, not just to recover, but to learn how to live in ways that avoid illness. I thank the MEC and his team, and I welcome the opening of these centres of healthcare.