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(Written by: Dr. Gillian Saloojee)

One of the saddest sights I have seen this year happened on my recent trip to our sites in the Eastern Cape – the once vibrant rehab department at Isilimela now a storeroom. The therapists have left, not because they wanted to, but because there are no permanent posts on the hospital staff establishment.

Situated 43 km from Port. St. Johns, in one of the most scenic areas of our country, Isilimela Hospital had a special and unique Rehabilitation Department. Up until the end of 2017, the rehabilitation department was staffed by community service therapists.  How Malamulele Onward came to know about the hospital was through the energy of a succession of community therapists who each left their mark on the hospital and from year to year, the Rehabilitation Department went from strength to strength.  Each year the comm serv therapists would attend the Malamulele Onward training courses – of their own volition, paying for the course themselves and travelling 900 km to Johannesburg to attend. Such was their interest and enthusiasm for working with children with CP and giving them the best service possible with the meagre resources they had, that a small team from Malamulele Onward visited the hospital each year. And each year we were impressed with the new comm serv therapists and  how a dedicated group of young newly qualified therapists with no supervision or mentorship had not only established a CP service which any hospital could be proud of but how year on year they were able to not only maintain the continuity of service, but improve on what their predecessors had done. This commitment to continuity of service and the excellent handovers each year is rare in public service hospitals.

As a result the CP Clinic grew in numbers each year. Over the years, we invited several of the children and their caregivers to come to our Therapy Centre in Johannesburg for the two week Residential Therapy and Training Programme. As a result, a core group of caregivers who could pass on skills and knowledge to other caregivers at their monthly CP Clinic was established.

So to return to the hospital and find the department that was once so alive and brimming with energy now being used as a temporary storeroom was a very sad day. And it is not that the therapists did not want to remain at the hospital – they longed to remain and continue to grow the service. However, their enthusiasm was in marked contrast to the apparent disinterest,  inaction and inability on the part of  the decision making personnel in the Eastern Cape Dept of Health in creating and advertising permanent posts and clamours for permanent therapy posts fell on deaf ears.

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In a happy contrast to the sad state of the rehabilitation department was the commitment shown by the mothers and grandmothers of children with CP who arrived to see me when I spent a morning at Isilimela.  The new Clinical Manager of the hospital, Dr. Mhlanga, welcomed us warmly and allowed us to use the bare waiting area outside the Rehab Dept.  Unearthing mats and chairs from the Rehab Dept, they quickly turned the waiting  area into a CP Clinic. Despite the inclement rainy weather, 14 children and their caregivers had arrived, hoping to receive therapy, and even more hopeful that the Rehab Dept would soon be open for business again.  I was so proud of the parents who had spent time with us in Johannesburg – with the skills they had learnt from the two weeks they spent with us and having been part of the regular CP Clinic last year, they  lead the group session – welcoming the children with a greeting song and then sharing with other parents ideas and suggestions (how to keep your child’s body loose and soft; how to position your child in a good position; ideas for playing with your child; how to help your child to dress and undress). Could this be the future ……….. parent led services??

Recognizing the inequalities and vicissitudes of the current healthcare system, Malamulele Onward works to ensure that children with moderate and severe disabilities and their families still get the support they need irrespective of whether there are healthcare professionals available and interested in working to improve services for children with CP.  Parents know their children best and want the best for their children and by harnessing the inner strength and resilience of rural women who are mothers, grandmothers or guardians of children with CP, Malamulele Onward will continue to invest in them and help these special women  to take charge of their own lives and the lives of their children.

Malamulele Diary

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Children's Memorial Institute
Gate 10
13 Joubert Street ext

Office Tel/Fax: (011) 484-9456

P.O. Box 308
Erin, Ontario
N0B 1T0

Banking Details

Name of acc holder: Malamulele Onward
Name of bank: ABSA
Branch: Sandton
Branch code: 632005
Acc No: 4068261682
Swift code: ABSA ZA JJ

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