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Public clinics make going on the Pill a pain

by: Xongani Maluleka - 8 April 2016

Contraceptives1For some women getting contraceptives isn’t a train smash. Taking a safety precaution isn’t a 3-hour Mission Impossible task. Just in and out of the pharmacy, without judgement or humiliation from the pharmacist. However, for me, it’s a great deal of time dedicated to preventing pregnancy, being humiliated and feeling demoralised by the nurses at the public clinic. Let me tell you about my most recent experience at the clinic when I went to get my contraceptive pills.

Long queue and waiting

It’s 5 o’clock, Tuesday morning as I make my way to the local public clinic to get contraceptives. The plan is to get there early to avoid long queues and still make it to work on time. However, things never go according to plan. I arrive at the clinic at 6:10. Already there are a lot of women queuing for contraceptives. The foyer is packed from the entrance to the back.

Unfortunately, we can’t visit the clinic any other day besides the date specified on our cards. If you come the day before your specified date you’ll be chased away, and if you come the day after, you won’t get contraceptives.

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The queue keeps getting longer; more women with restless babies and toddlers are coming in. We can see the nurses going in and out of the consultation room with the sign “Family Planning” on the door. None of them come to speak to us and explain what the hold-up is, instead they chatter away like we don’t exist or need assistance. We’ve been waiting for almost two hours and the only thing I can hear are complaints. No one tries to find out what’s causing the delay, instead we keep waiting.

At 8:45, a nurse comes out of the consultation room and shouts, “We have pills, no injections yet.” The ladies are fuming, there’s a commotion, as the pill receivers move first in line. I hear a lady swearing under a whisper, “How dare they? I was here first and now I’m last, labo nurse baya nyanyisa.” As I move closer to the door, I give up on the idea of making it to work on time.


“The other lady gets half naked and receives the injection right in front of me”

It’s 9 o’clock, and finally my turn. I hand over my card to the nurse, she asks for my personal details which are written on my card.

There are two of us in the room with the nurse. I’m here to get pills and the other lady is here for an injection, which is a bit confusing because we were told the injection is not available yet.

There’s no privacy in the consultation room. The other lady gets half naked and receives her injection right in front of me. The nurse jams the needle in her buttock, and I can see the pain through her facial expression.

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As I’m about to walk out, after receiving my pills, another lady walks in. She asks to be put on the pill. What happens next takes me back to the day I came to this clinic to be put on the pill for the first time, as she has to go through the same experience that I went through.

The first time I went to the clinic for the pill

Firstly, I had to be on my period for the nurse to give me the contraceptives. She needed to see the evidence as the nurses claimed that we put beetroot juice on the sanitary pads to deceive them. I took off my underwear to show her the tampon with blood. Quite humiliating. Only then did she give me the pills.

There’s no reason why this process needs to take almost three hours to complete. However, every other three months it’s the same situation. It makes me sad that I must invest so much time only to get inside the consultation room for two minutes and then I’m out with my pills, and the humiliation.

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I complain about this to myself constantly, but unfortunately I can’t do anything about it. Since I can’t afford to buy contraceptives at the pharmacy and don’t have medical aid, I have no other alternatives. For now, I’ll just have to ready myself for my next long visit to the local clinic.

Twitter: @Xongstarr

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