UFH takes healthcare services to rural and remote Eastern Cape communities

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Today, 22 March 2023, the University of Fort Hare’s Department of Nursing Sciences under the Faculty of Health Sciences launched a mobile clinic and a 22-seater bus that will be taking healthcare services to rural and remote communities in the Eastern Cape.

Funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training to the tune of R1 million, the successful launch of this first-of-its-kind initiative in the Nursing Education Institution sector in the province, is a culmination of the Faculty’s partnerships with the Buffalo City Metro Health District and the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

The mobile health facility will provide primary healthcare services such as health education, basic screening for diseases and basic healthcare interventions that will be administered by students from the University’s Department of Nursing Science and the Department of Rehabilitative Sciences under the supervision of qualified and professional health practitioners.

This flagship project will be piloted at an informal settlement outside Mdantsane, called Smiling Valley. This community was identified by the Buffalo City Metro Health District, as its nearest clinic is located miles away.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony which was held at the Miriam Makeba Arts Centre on the East London campus, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Prof Renuka Vithal said the project was a great example of academic institutions working with stakeholders to make an impact on surrounding communities.

“Community engagement and community service is key to our teaching and learning, and research programmes. It is important to develop meaningful partnerships such as this, not only for training our students, but also to give our academics the opportunity to do research and to better inform the kind of teaching that we do, as well as the kind of services we offer to impact the health and wellbeing of our surrounding communities.”

“This development also forms part of how we are gradually rebuilding the infrastructure needed to support our Health Services programmes under the Faculty of Health Sciences,” said Prof Vithal.

Speaking on behalf of the Provincial Department of Health, Dr Mthandeki  Xamlashe, the Acting Deputy Director-General for Clinical Services in the Eastern Cape, said the launch of the mobile healthcare facility at UFH was very significant to the healthcare sector in the province.

“This is a very special day for us. It is an extension of a well-established relationship between the Department and the University.  The launch of this mobile clinic speaks to where our hearts are, which is reaching out to rural communities and offering basic services to ensure that the people in these areas remain healthy and are knowledgeable about taking care of their health.”

The Dean of the Faculty, Prof Mzikazi Nduna said that this was a historic moment for the Faculty. “One of the most important things in the context of the country is the socio-demographics of the people that our Department of Health serves. Not all of our people have access to clinics and for those patients, it is important that we the healthcare workers, reach out to them when they are unable to reach our facilities.”

Equally excited about this initiative is the Head of the Department of Nursing, Ms Ntombana Rala who said: “We are launching a teaching and learning opportunity for our students, it is an extension of our community engagement, and most importantly this is a great opportunity to prepare our students to become nurses that provide healthcare services where it is need the most -in the rural and remote communities.”

Delivering the key message, Dr Xamlashe urged the students when they visit these communities to remember the nurses’ oath which they solemnly pledge themselves: “to the service of humanity and will endeavour to practise my profession with conscience and with dignity.”