SHAWCO (University of CapeTown’s Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation), with significant support from GrandWest, continues to make much-needed primary healthcare services available to underprivileged communities across the Western Cape.
With over 3000 people visiting the mobile clinics each year, these no-pay clinics often serve as the only port-of-call for the sick and injured who struggle to access primary health care services or preventative initiatives.
Established 71 years ago by Andrew Kinnear, a UCT Medical student, SHAWCO Health is run by about 500 to 800 volunteers from the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences. All the work carried out by SHAWCO Health is fuelled by a spirit of compassion, community and volunteerism and is made possible through the support of public and private donations, of which GrandWest CSI is the primary sponsor.
“GrandWest CSI is enormously proud to partner with SHAWCO’s Health clinics, which have become a part of the communities which they serve and the doctors and nurses from the communities have spoken of the value of our service,” says GrandWest CSI Manager, Heidi Edson.
“Through health promotion and screening we are empowering patients with knowledge of health issues in their own language and detecting health problems at their beginning stages before they become life-threatening,” adds Edson.
The SHAWCO Health team operates out of mobile clinics to run three evening clinics per week, alternating between Simthandile, Newrest and Barcelona (Mondays); Noordhoek and Browns Farm (Tuesdays); and Dunoon and Joe Slovo (Wednesdays). Paediatric clinics are run fortnightly on a Saturday morning and they alternate between Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay and Manenberg.
While diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries at primary health care level (i.e. respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and diarrhea), the SHAWCO Health team also uses their time with the patient to provide health promotion by sharing information on various health issues (i.e. obesity, diabetes, TB, HIV AIDS,etc.)
Mental Health screening tools have also been introduced to SHAWCO Health clinics, designed to assist with the recognition and diagnosis of depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse. Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, as well as antenatal support groups have been added to certain clinics, enabling SHAWCO Health to offer holistic care to patients.
Driven by a goal to increase general health awareness and wellness among the communities they serve, SHAWCO Health also trains local community members to act as frontline Community Health Workers in the SHAWCO clinics.
In addition to its weekly clinics, for the past five years, SHAWCO has delivered rural health clinics services, which focus on providing screening and health promotion, to under-resourced and marginalised communities in Vredenburg in the Western Cape and the Mqanduli district in the Eastern Cape, which was sponsored by Metropolitan Health. Last year the trip to Vredenburg screened over 600 patients, with over 400 patients screened for hypertension and diabetes and almost 100 patients screened for cervicalcancer and HIV.
According to SHAWCO Health President, a sixth year UCT medical student, Abbaas Allie, it’s not just the communities who benefit from SHAWCO Health – there’s a dual benefit: serving the immediate needs of the local community and training our country’s future health professionals to have a broader community-orientated perspective in their work.
“Over the years we’ve witnessed how students’ lives have been changed through their interaction with communities. Supervising and volunteering students have reported that the experience is eye-opening and life-changing. It is a great opportunity for students to learn and develop their practical practice, as well as learning about the context from which a large majority of South Africans come,” he says.