No easy ride to Settlers' Hospital

Happiness Vuyelwa Mtolo

Transport to and from Settlers Hospital is a burning issue for many Grahamstown township residents. Wheelchair bound maTenza (93) says that “taxi drivers only care about the money.” 

Accompanied by her granddaughter Nozizwe Qamatha (29), maTenza has gone a little deaf and blind in one eye.

“We don’t spend makhulu’s pension anymore as we use it to hire people cars to take her to hospital,” says Qamatha.

Regular patient and Joza resident, Ivy Manyathi (47) finds visits to Settler's hospital, Grahamstown stressful and worrying. "Taxis to and from the hospital run on time, from 9am to 11am. After 11am, there is nothing,” she says.

This taxi schedule does not mean that taxis take people to the hospital and back,

“I take a taxi from Joza to town, and then I walk from town to the hospital and back to town again,” says Manyathi.

“We have not done anything to better the situation or try to change the circumstances; we just work with the times of the availability of the taxis. If I’m on time, great. If not I have to find other alternatives,” says Manyathi.

Taxi driver Lumko Gqahishi (22) says that it is not their job to take people to the hospital. 

“We follow orders from the taxi owners, and our routes are the townships and town, and special hire only.”

Another taxi driver, Aviwe Boom (27), says that another reason why taxi drivers do not go up to the hospital is that there is not enough to make a full load to the hospital, therefore they would lose money.

“People have appointments at different times. We cannot take five people who have appointments at 9am, then another five or seven who have appointments at 10am separately. We need a full load; otherwise we lose money and waste petrol.”

Peddie problem
Whilst Joza many township residents struggle to get to and from the hospital, some residents on local farms seem to have less of a problem. Mfuneko Mack (49), a Peddie resident, says that she has never had trouble getting taxis to take her to and from the hospital.

“Taxis by the farms bring you straight here and take you back, you just have to wait a long time because they come from far,” says Mack.

Ambulance service
The Settlers Hospital ambulance service operates 24/7 but only transports patients in a critical condition who are seriously sick, injured or sometimes women in labour.

Ambulance driver Thabo Langa (39) said that pregnant women are attended last if the hospital an injured person and a person in labour needs an ambulance at the same time.

“The reason being that an injured person can either lose a lot of blood (depending on how serious their injury is) or they could even die. Birth on the other hand is painful, but natural,” says Langa.

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