In the short while that I have been involved in healthcare, I have learnt that there is a sort of camaraderie among South African healthcare workers. They know what it is like working with only the most basic of drugs. They know night shifts with too many patients for too few beds. They know all about trying to treat a patient in a passageway. They are masters at improvising; saving lives with limited supplies.
Recently, however, the greatest assault on their security has exceeded that of microbes and viruses and bodily fluids. It has progressed to the macroscopic: the self-same people they treat every day.
When one of us is hurt, it does not matter if we have never met him. It is an attack on one of our colleagues: a personal matter to us all.
Dear South African Government, yesterday one of our young colleagues in Mpumalanga, Senzo Mkhize, a 28-year old doctor, was stabbed to death by one of his patients.
Two years ago, almost to the day, a doctor in Livingstone Hospital Port Elizabeth was shot by the assaulters of his trauma patient. Also in 2008 a young dentistry student was kidnapped from the Tygerberg Hospital grounds – and eventually raped.
In 2010, a prison inmate was escorted to Livingstone Hospital by an unarmed guard. He then went to the restroom where he retrieved a firearm, with which he killed the guard.
Dear South African Government, a point has been reached where people no longer go into this field for the money – the ends simply don’t justify the means. Those who chase a substantial income opt for other occupations. More and more people are in this field because of their passion: to save lives.
You already have a severe shortage of healthcare workers.
The security situation is chasing people away who likely had little intention of leaving.
I can understand not being able to build new hospitals or expand the old ones. I can even understand not being able to train greater numbers of doctors. Those are long-term goals. What I can NOT understand is the lack of attempts to improve security at hospitals and clinics. There is money for so much else (let me not go off on a tangent about that, though)… why not for this?
It takes six years to train a medical doctor. When that doctor is gone, he is gone. It take an entire six years to fill that position again – and in essence, the void is never filled because the shortage of doctors is not improved
This has gone on for too long – it is time to search in earnest for a solution.
The fact that we are still in South Africa is evidence of our love for our country – so help us to help you.