Mediclinic’s collaboration with the Unjani Clinic initiative empowers local nurses to own and run primary healthcare clinics in  their communities. This helps alleviate pressure on state hospitals and clinics in the area.

More than 80% of people in South Africa depend on the country’s overburdened public health system, which means that hospitals and clinics in the public sector are under strain. At the same time, private healthcare is not always affordable. The Unjani Clinic model and network were developed to help address a need for healthcare not met by either private or public services.

This unique model, which was devised in 2010, is the largest nurse-led initiative and network in South Africa. Situated in all nine provinces, these clinics offer convenience, quality and affordable primary healthcare to the surrounding communities.

Unjani Clinics serve patients who are employed but don’t have medical insurance. This unique market offering – an affordable R300 per consultation (including medication) – targets those who can pay towards their healthcare needs but can’t afford medical aid insurance or private general practitioner rates. As Unjani Clinic clients move away from state healthcare facilities, capacity is freed up in government hospitals and clinics, allowing others to receive care quicker.

Technology broadens scope of care

Intercare and Unjani Clinic are strategic and operational partners in broadening access to private healthcare. The combined experience and footprint of Intercare and Unjani Clinic allow for integration and innovation at scale, which becomes even more powerful when enabled by state- of-the-art technological solutions. On-demand virtual doctor consultations that are supported by Intercare are now available in all Unjani Clinics. If clinically indicated and appropriate, the nursing practitioner can connect with an Intercare GP online, who can provide additional diagnostic and therapeutic care to the patient in real time. This helps broaden a clinic’s scope of care and provides a far more cost- effective and convenient solution for patients than a referral for a physical GP appointment at a different location and time.

Intercare uses an advanced Digital Clinic specifically designed to facilitate online consultations, providing a high level of security and an efficient workflow for both nursing practitioners within Unjani Clinic and Intercare doctors.

By speeding up access to care, expanding the treatment options available to the patient, and supplementing the nurse practitioners’ experience and knowledge with that of the doctor, patient outcomes can be enhanced.

Professional nurse Nokuthula Kwinda, Unjani Clinic Middelburg

“I am a Professional Nurse (PN) with experience in primary healthcare. I’ve always enjoyed being the first point of contact, as I can treat patients to diminish the burden on government health facilities. I’ve worked in clinics at Ermelo and Volksrust, and opened my own Unjani Clinic in Middelburg in 2022. This is a semi-rural area in Mpumalanga with only one state hospital nearby – Middelburg Provincial Hospital.

“Owning my business has always been a dream and being able to service this community is a great privilege. My container clinic has a consulting room and a recovery room, and I treat more than 100 patients a month for minor ailments. These include asthma, hypertension, HIV testing, burns, and circumcision. For R300 per consult, a patient doesn’t have to wait to be seen and I can dispense medication, too. This is real value.

“Previously, patients would need to take days off work to wait at state clinics or the government hospital, where there are long queues and often no medication. Unjani means “How are you?” in both Zulu and Xhosa. I believe in supporting my patients’ physical health, as well as their general wellbeing. I’m able to diminish the burden on state facilities by assessing, diagnosing and treating my patients holistically at the clinic. I refer them to bigger institutions when necessary.

“I hope to increase my patient numbers once we’ve addressed a few stumbling blocks with the municipality. We’re still at infancy stage but are growing every month. I’m also able to assist patients with family planning and sonar ultrasounds, which means we’re contributing to planned, safe pregnancies in the area. It is empowering to own my business – but it’s not only about entrepreneurship. Unjani Clinic helps me focus on my core skill, which is nursing. They assist with legalities and practical business assistance while I focus on my patients.

“I feel I am contributing towards making the community in which I live a healthier place because I’m able to offer health education and social work input when necessary. I have faith that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will sustain me and my family. I employ a full-time clinic assistant and a local nurse. I’m hoping to employ more staff once the clinic is more profitable.

“I never thought it would be possible to achieve my dream but Unjani Clinic and Mediclinic have made this a reality.”

The collaboration and integrated offerings between Intercare and Unjani Clinic will further expand as new services and technology are introduced.

Since 2020, Mediclinic has provided funding for seven Unjani Clinics split between a grant and interest- free enterprise development loan, repayable by the nurses over five years.

The innovation behind Unjani Clinic shifts primary healthcare tasks to Professional Nurses ability to leverage an extensive private sector distribution network to allow broader access to medication. More than two million people benefit from the Unjani Clinics in their area.

Benefits for professional nurses

Empowers black women nurses within their communities to:

  • Become entrepreneurs within a solid support structure.
  • Lead the effort in transforming the healthcare system.
  • Develop management and operational skills through ongoing coaching and mentoring.
  • Eventually own their businesses.

Benefits for patients

Primary healthcare services that are:

  • Convenient
  • Accessible
  • High quality

Benefits for job

Unjani Clinics aim to create sustainable microenterprises that add value in communities and have the potential to create the following five job

  • Three full-time sustainable jobs
  • Two further jobs as patient numbers increase

Funding model

In February 2022, a proposal was made as follows:

  • Total of R4.4m for four additional Unjani Clinics.
  • 24% grant = R1 056 000 (R264 000 x 4) paid into Unjani Clinic NPC.
  • 76% interest-free loan = R3 344 000 (R836 000 x 4) paid to Unjani SPV (Pty) Ltd, a 100% subsidiary of Unjani Clinic NPC.

Support for Unjani Clinic

Since 2020, Mediclinic has provided funding for 11 Unjani Clinics on an enterprise development loan basis (repayable by the nurses over five years). The first three funded clinics were Unjani Clinic Ga-Rankuwa, Sebokeng and Alexandra. Following the success of these clinics, four additional clinics were established in 2022.

  • Engonyameni/Umlazi (KZN)
  • Mtubatuba (KZN)
  • Komani (Eastern Cape)
  • Middelburg (Mpumalanga)

Four more clinics and a health pod will be established by the end of 2023.

- Extract from the Transformation Publication 2023