Bat­tle for pris­on­ers’ health

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - HEALTH - VUYO MKIZE

MED­I­CAL staff short­ages, con­gested wait­ing lists, unat­tended com­plaints and no ex­pla­na­tions of medicines given.

This is the pic­ture painted by three ex-in­mates who were re­leased on pa­role from a prison in Kim­ber­ley.

One of the parolees, Solomon Maseko said: “Say you have flu and are de­tained in the older cen­tres. You go to the of­fi­cial to lay a com­plaint so that you can be checked by a nurse to get treat­ment, but that com­plaint is some­times not taken for­ward to the (prison’s) health cen­tre.

“And be­cause of the con­ges­tion of com­plaints, you be­come like a nui­sance to an of­fi­cial. Some of them have the men­tal­ity that you de­serve to die in there.”

Maseko, 39, said he had wit­nessed nu­mer­ous “in­hu­mane” ac­tions against pris­on­ers.

Luyanda Dol­wana, 31, who was con­victed and im­pris­oned in the city for seven-and-a-half years, re­called a time he a had an ex­cru­ci­at­ing toothache.

“I had to wait a month to get seen by a doc­tor,” he said.

An­other of the parolees, An­drew Chokochela, said: “Health is one of the biggest things we need to pay at­ten­tion to as a coun­try. We have over­crowd­ing in pris­ons and no proper air ven­ti­la­tion.

“In Kim­berly, there were 10 of us in a cell whereas in Grootvlei (in Bloem­fontein) there was 50 to 60 in a cell.”

The ex-in­mates, through NGO Right To Care’s cor­rec­tional ser­vices’ sup­port depart­ment, have be­come peer ed­u­ca­tors – not just in pris­ons, but in their com­mu­ni­ties too.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion sup­ports 89 Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices pri­mary health care cen­tres and seven phar­ma­cies be­tween KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the North­ern Cape.

Ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­ports, at the end of March last year, South Africa’s pris­ons only had 119 134 beds avail­able for its 161 984 in­mates.

All three in­mates said they were grate­ful for their pa­role and hav­ing a sec­ond chance at life, but were still bat­tling with the stigma at­tached to be­ing ex-of­fend­ers and as­sim­i­lat­ing back into their com­mu­ni­ties.

PIC­TURE: DIMPHO MAJA/ANA

Solomon Maseko, 39, a for­mer prison in­mate, speaks about the chal­lenges of ac­cess­ing health-care ser­vices in pris­ons and how NGO Right to Care helped him.

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