"I usually like to wake up very early in the morning," said Monica Moloi, who noted she typically wakes up at about 5 am.
According to Moloi, the queue at the Bohlokong Clinic in Bethlehem, Free State often snakes past her home. "I would see cars and people already waiting for the clinic to open."
Now she sells vetkoek and fish to hungry patients who are often left standing, waiting for hours in the absence of enough chairs to accommodate the line.
"I have recently started selling these things for those who arrive early so that they eat," she said. "It's unacceptable for people to start queuing at these hours," says Moloi.
According to Moloi, demand from customers like Mosuwe Molefe means she is usually sold out of food by 10 am.
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Molefe said he usually spends about eight hours in the queue before being seen for his high blood pressure and diabetes.
Fellow patient Motlalepule Maqwaqwa said patients have complained to the clinic manager about long wait times to no avail.
"We have been complaining to the clinic manager and nurses," said Maqwaqwa, who says patients' complaints prompted the clinic to install a complaint box.
"The nurses tell us that there are only three nurses on duty so we will have to wait because there is nothing they can do." he said.
Nurse These Moloi said the clinic is aware of the long wait times and has tried to reduce waiting times by introducing an appointment system for medicine collection.
"We started this system to prevent patients coming to the clinic all at once, but some patients don't follow up on their appointments," she said.
The National Department of Health has begun rolling out a new programme to allow patients with chronic illnesses to collect their medicines outside of clinics or hospitals in hopes of decongesting health facilities.
According to the department's latest annual report, more than 180,000 patients are now receiving their medications at places like community pharmacies, tribal court offices or factories.
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