Gugulethu Community Health Centre (CHC) has stopped receiving patients until further notice due to a robbery that took place there in the early hours of Tuesday, June 13.
According to the health department, the staff affected are traumatised and are receiving counselling. It said the management is busy arranging more security to ensure staff safety.
Monique Johnstone, communications officer for the Western Cape Government for Health and Wellness, said: “Patients requiring emergency care will be diverted to Heideveld Emergency Centre and Mitchell’ Plain CHC. The midwife obstetric unit (MOU) will also be closed and the patients will be referred to Hanover Park MOU.”
The Western Cape MEC for Health, Nomafrench Mbombo visited Gugulethu CHC and condemned a seemingly well-orchestrated armed robbery at the clinic where two people, one in a wheelchair and the other pushing him, gained access to the premises by impersonating patients seeking health care. As soon as security guards opened the gate, they pulled out their guns and held them up. Two more robbers then entered the premises.
“The four criminals then proceeded to rob the security guards. Soon afterwards they left and thankfully did not reach the trauma unit where the staff and patients were. No one was hurt physically. However, the trauma such actions leave on the victims is long-lasting. Everyone at the facility has been offered counselling and will continue to be supported in their emotional recovery,” she said.
According to reports, within moments, the guards were cornered and overpowered by the men.
“I condemn this incident in the strongest terms possible,” said Dr Mbombo.
“Our health facilities are essential assets to our communities where residents can seek proper healthcare in a safe environment. These actions not only undermine our facilities’ ability to function, but also place our staff and patients’ lives in danger. I hope that the South African Police Service (SAPS) prioritises this case and ensures that the perpetrators face the full consequences of the law.”
Dr Mbombo said a health facility is a place of healing where those in need of medical care go for help. “This should not, in any society, be seen as an easy target for criminals. This attack was clearly a pre-planned attack on vulnerable parts in the community. They are a danger to society and should be prosecuted by the justice system,” she said
Dr Mbombo said her department has handed over the CCTV footage to police, which we hope will lead to the speedy arrest of the criminals.
She called on the communities to raise the alarm if they become aware of threats to their health service. She said everyone has a right to a health service, so they need to work together in protecting this service that is there for all.
“These incidents have far-reaching implications as it means that traumatised staff are unable to go back to work before they are fully recovered emotionally, which in turn means there might be fewer health care workers who can attend to the sick. The health service is there for you, let us work together in protecting it for everyone.”
When Vukani visited the facility on the same day, staff were in a meeting with management. The gates were closed for the patients.
One patient, who asked not to be named, said he was at the facility to collect his medication to treat high blood pressure.
“I am worried about my health now. I am hoping to get help or get information on where to get my medication now. (News of this robbery) is a surprise to me and something that we need to condemn as a community. For now I am appalled and disgusted,” he said.
Gugulethu police spokesperson Sergeant Sindisiwe Ngqele confirmed the robbery and said the matter is still under investigation.
She said anyone with information about the case must inform police.