By: Sizakele Nduli
Born in Sebokeng, Gauteng, North West University alumna Lerato Asnath Pato has worked her fingers to the bone to see her dreams come true. With just 15 years of experience under her belt, Pato, 40, is now the founder and CEO of the Leratong Poly Clinic, which she launched in Soshanguve, Tshwane, in November last year. She told Vutivi News that the clinic was the result of merging her love for business and nursing to help the residents of the township and its surrounding areas with the best health care through an integrated clinical practice, education, and research.
“What inspired me is that I always loved business. So, I thought why not open a business in something I love and have experience in.” Pato has an advanced diploma in primary health and a diploma in midwifery. She also has a certificate in the management of HIV/Aids, trained at Netcare’s private nursing academy, and has experience in dispensing and working in an ICU, which prepared her for this position.
Soshanguve is situated about 45km north of Pretoria and has a high rate of young people who abuse substances. Many youngsters in Soshanguve and its surrounding areas such as Mabopane recklessly share blood through needles as a way to “transfer euphoria” via a method known amongst users as “bluetoothing”. As part of bluetoothing, heroin or nyaope users inject themselves with the drug. They then draw blood from themselves and pass the syringe to others who hope to get high.
The increasing rate of drug use and HIV prompted Pato, who is passionate about combating HIV/Aids in the community, to introduce tailor-made programmes in the clinic to address substance abuse. “I realised that there are a lot of young people under the influence of drugs and most of them are sick because of sharing needles and infecting each other with HIV. The aim is to prevent HIV and promote health by them taking their medication and for the government to assist them with ARVs,” she said.
“(The) Department of Health can come to our facility and see the type of services that we give to our people because we are also relieving the pressure from the public. The department can assist us by giving us ARVs because our people are struggling.” South Africa is among the top 10 countries in Africa with the highest HIV rate. The World Health Organisation estimates that of the 37.7 million people living with HIV/Aids, 73% were being treated with ARVs in 2020. Pato told Vutivi News that her aim was to continue to care for community members and ensure they got the best healthcare services. This was despite her constant financial challenges.