The good, the bad and the downright bizarre of our Public Health System

I have an awesome domestic helper named Virginia (we call her VG for short) who lives with us and is a very important part of our cozy little household. Virginia and her family hail from Rustenburg. A couple of weeks ago, Virginia’s sister, Elizabeth, an energetic, bright and healthy woman, started feeling terribly ill. She went to the local public health clinic in Rustenburg for treatment and was given Panado.

She didn’t feel any better (obvs) and after a few days, she decided to come to stay with VG and try a a clinic in Johannesburg for treatment. The clinic here diagnosed her with depression and advised that she could see one of the state psychiatrists in a couple of months. Depression! Truly – I don’t believe this woman has ever been depressed in her life.

Three days later, on a lazy Sunday morning, VG phoned me from her room, sounding frantic! She asked me to hurry downstairs, which I did. When I saw her, she was in a state. She asked me to take them to the Helen Joseph hospital. Her sister was not doing well at all. I told VG to bring her to the car. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as sick standing upright. And she wasn’t really standing upright, at that. She was physically supported by her sister and a friend. I suddenly started feeling nervous. This was a very sick woman. I drove as quickly as I could to Helen Joseph and once there, found her a wheel chair. If left VG, Elizabeth and friend there with a wish to the universe that she would receive quick and appropriate treatment. VG arrived home much later that night confirming that she was admitted and undergoing tests. The tests confirmed that she was actually in renal failure and she spent the next three weeks undergoing dialysis.

It has been a couple of weeks since she was discharged. She looks a thousand times better but she is still undergoing dialysis on an out-patient basis. She will need dialysis treatment until such time as she miraculously regains renal function or a donor kidney is found. I’ve  had a call from the Helen Joseph Renal Unit, confirming that at some point in the near future, they would be delivering a monthly supply of home dialysis kits . They have also come to do a home inspection to confirm that her current residence is suitable for home treatment – clean, running water etc.

We have all been really impressed with the treatment she has received at in the last few weeks at Helen Joseph. We always hear such horror stories about our state hospitals, but in this case, they have been amazing! What I don’t get is how the public health clinics could so irresponsibly prescribe Panado or diagnose depression in a patient whose life was in danger from renal failure?

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