Pholela Health Centre – The beginning
The story of Pholela Community Health Centre dates back to 1940 when the first ever, Health Centre to be established by the Union Health Department. Following the report of the National Health Services Commission about the Centre in 1944, the government decided to establish Health Centres in various parts of South Africa during this time Pholela Health Centre was considered a useful pilot project in this new service. Medical Officers and other staff appointed to the newly created Health Centres were first sent to Pholela to gain experience in the Health Centre practice and also to study methods evolved there. Pholela remained the teaching and investigation base in a service to be provided for various types of communities in South Africa, this resulted in the Centre becoming the rural section of an Institute of Family and Community Health which was established with headquarters in Durban.
COPHC and Pholela
Pholela is acknowledged internationally as the site where the Community Oriented Primary Health Care concept was successfully initiated and put into practice. The late Professor Sydney Kark introduced the COPHC approach in dealing with the Health needs of the community. In this approach the community’s health needs become known to the health care workers through community surveys that are conducted by the Health Workers which, among other things, include mapping of areas, understanding the culture, beliefs and habits of the community, socio-economic status as well as prevalent conditions, this approach was pioneered at Pholela by Professor Kark who was later joined by his wife Doctor Emily Kark to ensure that the concept became a great success. Through COPHC the communities started taking care of their health. The health workers conducted home visits, gave health education to the families and communities.
When apartheid took its toll in South Africa the Karks left the country to Israel where they continued what they had pioneered at Pholela Health Centre. The COPC (Community Oriented Primary Care) as it was known, became the household name in the health service in international countries whilst it was dying is South Africa.
Realising the role that the Health Centre played in the Health service of South Africa. the new Pholela Community Health Centre was built with the assistance of international donors brought in by the then Minister for Health Dr Nkosazana Zuma who also grew up depending on Pholela Health Centre for her Health needs as a member of Bulwer Community.
Pholela Community Health Centre has assisted many post-graduates studying COPHC as they had to visit the Centre in order to identify with the concept. The Health Centre continues to render top class health service to the surrounding communities. There are currently 7 Clinics that are satellite to Pholela CHC and many outreach programmes that are rendered to the community.
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