Witkoppen Health and Welfare Centre (WHWC) is a comprehensive primary healthcare centre with social welfare services situated in the far northern suburbs of Johannesburg. It is a private, non-governmental organisation that was initially registered as a feeding scheme and then as a welfare organisation in 1995. Since then, it has registered as a Section 21 company, a nonprofit organisation, and a public benefit organisation with Section 18A tax exemption.
The Centre was established in 1946 by two local doctors in response to the lack of healthcare facilities in the area. It started as a small welfare organisation serving the black indigent people living in the vicinity and has become a vital health facility providing essential primary health and welfare services for indigent people regardless of race, gender, or creed. WHWC’s service area covers all those living within an approximate radius of 30 km of the Centre.
In 1993, the then Department of National Health, now known as the Department of Health, approved a subsidy for WHWC, however, the bulk of the organisation’s funding still needs to be obtained from private, corporate and international donors.
WHWC’s vision is to be recognised as setting the standard of excellence and best practice in providing health and welfare services to its target communities. Its mission is to promote and provide comprehensive preventative and curative health and welfare services in response to the changing needs of our community.
The rules that govern the work of WHWC are excellence, professionalism, compassion, non-discrimination, empowerment and education, integrity and good corporate governance.
The majority of WHWC beneficiaries are from Region A of the City of Johannesburg, particularly in the informal settlements of Diepsloot, Msawawa in Kyasands, Thabo Mbeki in Lion Park, Pipeline, Riverbend, Dihokeng and Riversands. Many live in poor circumstances with no roads, electricity, sewerage or running water. Many are unemployed and poverty is rife. In a survey in 2010, 30 percent of WHWC patients were immigrants, almost half (46 percent) were unemployed, and the median monthly household income was R 1 700.
The need for the medical and psychosocial services provided at WHWC is always increasing, and the Centre has grown steadily over the years. The HIV/AIDS programme at WHWC started in 1996 in response to the need of our beneficiaries who were very ill and dying in the communities it serves.
On average, WHWC provides comprehensive primary care services to over 8 000 patient-visits each month, providing hope and medical care to a sector of the population that has little or no option to go elsewhere to receive these services.
HCT, HIV AND AIDS
All patients are pre-test counselled and then have the option to refuse testing for HIV by our trained AIDS lay counsellors.
WHWC’s care encompasses appropriate management at all the varying stages of HIV infection, and includes ongoing adherence counselling and support as well as medical evaluation and treatment including antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s) when required.
Antenatal and Post-natal Clinics and the mothers and Vulnerable Children Programme
Pregnant women who are HIV-positive are managed on WHWC’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme. After delivery, mothers and babies are provided with post-natal care.
Family Planning and Well-Women Clinic
Contraception, breast screening, and pap smears are routinely offered. Colposcopy and Lletz treatment are also offered by a doctor who specialises in the field.
This is an area of most rapid growth. In 2012, almost 1 000 patients were started on TB treatment. This is partly due to an extensive screening programme that was started in an effort to identify infectious cases. In addition, a community worker traces TB patients who have defaulted on their treatment, as this poses a public health risk.
Acute, Curative and Chronic Services
Services for adults include acute, curative and chronic services with a dedicated chronic diseases clinic.
The Centre’s Paediatric Primary Healthcare Programme offers treatment of acute and chronic diseases, immunisation, nutritional advice, advice regarding alternative feeding methods and education about basic hygiene and health care issues as well as social services to ensure the medical, psychological and social well-being of the child.
All children are referred for HIV testing so that they have a known HIV status and HIV positive children are staged and commenced on life-saving antiretroviral treatment when required. WHWC is one of very few clinics in the area treating HIV infected children.
Social services comprise statutory work including foster care and adoption, community projects, youth care, poverty alleviation (including feeding schemes and food parcels), assistance with application for Identity documents and grants and care of the aged. Orphaned and vulnerable children are supported within the Mothers and Vulnerable Children project, in which field workers carry out home visits, providing counselling and support for the children and their caregivers.
Child and Family Mental Health
This clinic is run by a doctor with a special interest in the field, supported by a social worker and a counselling psychologist. This service is also community-based and includes small group workshops with teenagers at Diepsloot Combined School and educational assessments.
Hearing screening tests are conducted to identify patients who require further intervention and possibly auditory aids. WHWC is the only medical facility in South Africa with Video-otoscopy, which allows a patient with an ear problem to be examined by the facilitator or nurse at WHWC and a video of the findings transmitted Pretoria or Sweden where highly trained personnel examine the footage and send back their assessment of the patient’s condition and a recommendation for treatment.
The dental clinic is managed by the Department of Community Dentistry. Appropriate drugs are available for all patients from the registered pharmacy within WHWC. A full-time dietician is also available for nutritional advice and relevant food supplementation.
All laboratory specimens, including special investigations, are collected on site. Other investigations such as X-Rays, mammograms and optometry are done on a pro-bono basis by private consultants.
The mobile clinic, which is fitted with two fully equipped consulting rooms and is entirely self-sufficient with generator, refrigerator and wash basin, significantly increases WHWC’s outreach programme to provide both medical and social welfare services directly to the communities, helping to ensure that even the most vulnerable people who cannot make it to the Centre can still receive medical services, including HIV counselling and testing (HCT), TB screening, child immunisations, women wellness and general adult and paediatric care.
To view the Witkoppen Health and Welfare Centre in the Prodder NGO Directory, click here.