St Patricks La Rochelle Health Centre
1st August 2021 seen us off to an excellent start. Our Office Administrator joined us and, together with Fr. Filippo and James, we have seen this much anticipated project get off the ground . In a meeting held between the three, there is one thing that stood out: as articulated by Fr Filippo all efforts were made to ensure that the place was presentable, clean, beautiful, and conducive for those that were being served in the centre.
It was essential that the patients coming in would feel the warmth of the environment, feel welcome and at ease as their medical needs are attended to.
The above are images of what space looks like currently. Green in keeping with the colours of St. Patrick La Rochelle.
Green symbolizes the breaking of shackles, freedom from bondage. It is the colour of fertility. Fertility in the earth speaks about the good soil for a harvest reaped. It represents bountifulness, hope and the victory over death.
This is the very essence we tried to encapsulate when we took on the project of the Health Centre. La Rochelle is one of the hardest hit suburbs in Johannesburg where foreigners and locals alike struggle to access and obtain medical assistance from Health Facilities.
When the meetings began and the Vision cast, a group of Foreign and Local Doctors and Nurses from the Parish of La Rochelle immediately bought into the Vision and offered to be part of the team. They have each volunteered their time off to the Health Centre and are willing to put in the extra time to see members of the community assisted.
Being part of the Health System and with first-hand witnessing to the real struggle that migrants and refugees encounter, these doctors and nurses willingly gave of themselves to make the lives of these people better.
Doctors and Nurse and Staff
Networking and Expanding
We got the buy in of the Doctors and Nurses now we needed to embark on networking and meeting with others in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and to get word out that we are here and ready to serve.
We met with the sisters from the Bienvenu Centre , where we spoke to Lisa, and we made great progress in terms of the relationship that we would form and the assistance that we would be able to offer to them. They also have many women who need assistance from doctors or nurses be it in the form of a GP, a Gynaecologist, Paediatrician, Specialist, or Psychologist. These are currently serious concerns as in Gauteng directives and policy have crept in requiring that all foreign nationals have to be treated as private patients and charged the full price for medical assistance which is contradictory to a medical directive from the Department of Health stating otherwise.
Women from the Bienvenu Centre  have suffered many afflictions especially from GBV and now face with the fact that they cannot access the health system despite the fact that their dignity is compromised already. They were not able to get assistance or consultations to deal with the external wounds or bruises and scars they suffered from the ordeal.
This also makes it incredibly difficult for prosecution of the perpetrators to take place, as one requires a J88 (A legal document for the court prepared by the doctor which shows injuries sustained on the body) has to be completed. Without the funds for the doctors, some just rely on home remedies to help heal waiting for the next episode again.
This also places a huge financial constraint on the centres and support centres in and around the area. Either by way of these centres footing the bill, or by employing permanent Doctors on their payroll to get this sort of assistance. Advocacy initiatives have also proved effective in some cases to ensure free access to health care for the most vulnerable.
Our health centre will help make a difference in this.
Visit to Bienvenu Shelter
Legal Work towards Registration
As with many processes in South Africa getting the registration done for the clinic over the last two months was challenging. We had our legal team look at this, initially with no winning in sight. One of the avenues we explored was to look at our Catholic organisation and see where could we get some assistance or direction. We met with Andrea Cortemiglia who is the Director of CATHCA (Catholic Health Care Association). We joined their network meeting and Bongikosi Mthembu CATHCA’s Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator who in turn referred us to two Clinics. One was the Nazareth House and the other the Pholong Clinic. Nazareth House unfortunately has closed down but we were able to get in touch with some of those who worked their previously and discuss new projects. We were fortunate to meet with two lovely Nursing Sisters from the Pholong Clinic. Sister Magdalene is the founder and Director of the clinic and works alongside with, Sister Florida.
One of the points that Andrea highlighted during our meetings was that while we are in the midst of a pandemic with more health facilities needed, the sad reality is that more and more clinics are closing down and it is commendable that we could start a centre
Conversations started with our medical centre and the nurses at the Pholong Clinic towards registration. Subsequently the registration process has commenced, and we were able to lodge our application for registration with the Practice Code Numbering System as a division of the Board of Health Care Funders.
Spiritual Guidance and Obligation
Being a Catholic organisation none of this would not be done with the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being Christ centred on the 2nd October 2021, we had the Archbishop Buti Thagale, Bishop of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg (who is also the Southern African Catholic Bishops conference Liaison Bishops’ for Migrants and Refugees), come through and bless our centre. On that day was the liturgical day of the guardian angels, which reminds us that we are surrounded by the watchful care and intercession of the angels, who are always before God. Our social and medical assistance to the migrants and refugees will be a way for us by God’s grace to help in the lives of a vulnerable community. We had the doctors and nurses who were available come through and receive the blessing.
Archbishop Blessing the Building
Luke 9: 1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together; He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2. And He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
The above scripture was read unto us, and in the time that we are in it seems so appropriate that this would be the scripture that would be read as a blessing over the staff and the centre.
The 2nd October 2021 was when the Bishop arrived at the centre to do the blessing, which was significant as we celebrate the Day of Holy Angels. The three angels set to be commemorated is St. Michael who is “The prince of heavenly host”, St. Gabriel, meaning “God is my strength”, and was also the angel that proclaimed the birth of Christ, And St. Raphael “God has healed”, this being in line with one of the many missions that the Centre stands for.
While much anticipated work is yet to be done and a lot currently taking place, we look forward to this and we know that it will make a huge difference in the lives of the community in and around the area.