There is an air of excitement in Mamelodi East: three friends have decided to start an independent wellness clinic to serve the growing population of Mamelodi. The clinic is the first wholly black woman-founded clinic in the township and opened on January 13, 2020.
Nursing sisters Paulina Mafatshe and Mabu Sekhaoleli have been professional nurses for more than 35 years and are now about to retire. Veronica Mogashoa has also worked for 35 years in the health sector as an administrative and marketing practitioner. They have been friends for many years and attend church and social clubs together and it is through this that they hatched a plan to found Today Wellness clinic.
They tell me that every morning they would notice long lines of people queuing at government clinics, some having arrived as early as 5am trying to be attended to. Some would leave without getting assistance because the clinics and hospitals are over-subscribed or because they have to rush to work. They saw that this was one of the reasons why a lot of people ended up defaulting on their medication.
Concerned about their community’s health needs, they combined their extensive nursing and administrative experience and formed the clinic. Sister Mafatshe graciously offered to convert one of her garages into a clinic space and they were soon in business.
The clinic operates from 4pm-7pm which allows them to work during the day and then provide much-needed clinic services to the public, catering to those who are unable to access services during the day as a result of work commitments.
The three women say another thing they hope to achieve is to have more men come to the clinic and talk openly about their illnesses, as they have noticed that men tend to be shy and do not want to talk about their ailments. They say since the clinic is private, men are more willing to come and seek help as it is confidential.
As nurses, they are not able to offer the services doctors can, so they have a list of local doctors who they refer patients to when a patient’s condition, or the care they require, falls outside of their nursing skills.
Sister Mafatshe and Sister Sekhaoleli also explain that the services the clinic offers are not just about treating illness, but about educating people on wellness. This means teaching patients about the importance of mental health and eating food with nutritional value in order to stay healthy and ward off illness.
The community is showing great interest in their service: “People are walking in all the time asking about our services.” In fact, at the time of Maverick Citizen’s visit, the clinic is out of pamphlets as it has all gone towards marketing. These efforts include putting up posters at retail outlets, bottle stores, church – in fact just about anywhere that people are likely to gather in large numbers. What they say really launched them though was when they placed an ad in the Pretoria East newspaper Rekord which attracted a lot of media attention.
While the nurses can offer patients a wide range of services, they are concerned about funding shortages as they are currently self-funding with the help of family members. They are hoping to find sponsors who can help them get more equipment, furniture, medication and for them to eventually move out of the converted garage.
Their ultimate vision is getting a plot of land to build a big clinic, one that would employ more nursing staff and create employment opportunities such as administrators, ground staff and offer training opportunities for up-and-coming nurses. Living and working in Mamelodi they are quite attuned to the issues of unemployment and the resulting poverty faced by their community. They say they would like to use the clinic to assist in the alleviation of this constant pressure.
Their love for Mamelodi is etched unmistakably on their faces and while they were not all born and raised here, they moved here shortly after the township was established and have lived here since. They proudly talk about how active they are in the community and as a result are well known for their participation in most community forums and social formations.
Veronica goes on to say that they are “the family tree of Mamelodi” a term that seems quite fitting. This, she says, is what makes people feel free to come to the clinic.
The story of these friends of pensionable age shows that a mobilisation around skills and a love for your community can produce great things. These are the extraordinary yet ordinary citizens that inspire and push us all to do our little bit, in our little corner with whatever little we have to make an incremental difference. –MC