The EC C-19 People’s Coalition is concerned about the lack of government provision of free or affordable transport for infirm elderly, bed-ridden and disabled people living far from vaccination sites. People are having to spend large amounts of money they cannot afford on paying for private taxis to access vaccinations and are unable to buy food as a result.
This is a deterrent to thousands of elderly rural people, who run the risk of skipping the vaccine because the transport costs are too expensive.
Nosintu Mcimeli of Abanebhongo Disabled Persons Project based in Jekezi Location has reported that some people pay as much as R700 to hire private transport to travel to Nqamakwe Hospital in town for their vaccinations, leaving them unable to afford food that month.
“What is happening here is so sad – some of the vulnerable, disabled and bedridden pensioners have to hire special transportation to take them to get their vaccine and it costs R700”, Mcimeli said.
“What are they going to eat, how will they survive the coming month? Some borrow the R700 from mashonisas (loan sharks) to pay transport providers and have to pay that back with interest as soon as they get their old age grant” says Mcimeli.
Mcimeli adds that the provincial health department is not helping, instead claiming that there are no available vehicles to set up mobile vaccination sites in villages. Despite Mcimeli pleading (at the beginning of the roll-out) with the nearest hospital vaccination site to arrange for mobile vaccinations for infirm and disabled people, there was no response. When Mcimeli followed up this week, she was told the allocated vehicle was broken down.
Joseph Bhekabantu Bova, chair of the Amantshangase Residents Association in Mbizana, says OR Tambo Regional hospital in Mbizana has also not checked up on whether people in remote villages need transport.
“Our villages are very scattered and people do not have any idea where to go for the vaccine. The clinics don’t have the vaccine and many pensioners have not yet even managed to register” said Bova.
Residents in many other rural villages are experiencing these challenges and are questioning the intention of rolling out free vaccines for all without providing access for all.
There are several options for diversion of public resources being proposed by the EC C-19 People’s Coalition, such as:
· the use of taxis on existing Dept. of Education contracts could be deployed to act as patient transport vehicles whilst schools are closed and they are struggling for passengers;
· SANDF and SAPS vehicles be deployed under their jurisdiction to safeguard and protect the public;
· Department of Transport pay local taxis at the same rates they normally charge in the same communities they normally offer services.