Feeling the Bite

Marlene Gillings makes her choice.

Marlene Gillings chooses work above hospital.

This is the first instalment in a series of articles on how poor South Africans cope. What do people do to survive when they are unemployed, unable to get a job, and don’t qualify to get a grant from the state?

Marlene and Roy Gillings of Olive Close in Melkbosstrand are survivors. The couple has survived on the smell of an oil rag for years, and they do get old age pensions. But they’re getting on in years and medical help is getting harder to come by.

Roy is in constant pain.

Roy is in constant pain.

Roy (69) needs a hip replacement. He limps along painfully with the help of a crutch. Getting from point A-Z takes him ages and has resulted in him being virtually chair-bound. When he went to Wesfleur hospital in Atlantis last year, he was told that he would have to wait for two years for a hip replacement. According to a nurse at the hospital the lengthy wait “has not got to do with means but with availability.”

They said they’re sending the ambulance
Marlene also has a gripe about medical services. She was recently bitten by a dog when she went to collect her car guard bib, which she had lent to its owner.

The dog bite has not been taken care of.

Marlene shows where she was bitten.

Marlene says she called the ambulance shortly after 7 o’ clock that night. “They said they’re sending the ambulance out now. But I waited in the lounge until past 12 and then I went to bed.”

The following day Marlene phones a doctor from the parking lot where she guards cars, and enquires about the fees. “R430. No, I can’t go,” she says. In this case she would be able to get free treatment at the Wesfleur day hospital in Atlantis or at Brooklyn day hospital. But going there would mean forfeiting the tips she makes while guarding cars. Tips that flesh out her and Roy’s old age pensions that together amount to only R3560. The decision is a no-brainer for her.



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