In Memory of Fallen Colleagues

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.

Senzo Mkhize

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.


  1. Jane-Ann says:

    This is just so incredibly sad…this is the kind of thing that just makes me incredibly angry and frustrated with the state of things in our country…I may not be a medical student,bt havng been involvd in allied health sciences I knw the work and dedication it takes for medical students to persevere thru those 6years!!!and for that to be taken away in a matter of seconds by someone who just shows utter lack of respect for the medical field and person treating them, disgusts and disapoints me that our doctors are taken so for granted!!!
    You hit the nail right on the head with what u said in this blog..
    I hope that the government will learn from these unnecessary and pointless crimes in some way and that they will take the measures to prevent future tragedies such as this!!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jane-Ann. If hospitals are unsafe for doctors, it is just as unsafe for anyone else who works there; like Allieds. I hear there will be some sort of national march soon. Take care and stay safe!

  2. juicy says:

    So incredibly sad. I’m so sorry.

  3. Wilma Cloete says:

    terrible,im an intern clinical psychologist most health proffesionals care deeply for their patients,how sad when one is lost doing what they love!

    1. I agree – thanks so much for stopping by. Let’s hope that the government finally smells the coffee on this matter.

  4. Michelle says:

    It’s tough being a junior doctor when all the state cares about is getting the job done, at the expense of our safety. I am the only doctor in a little hospital in the northern cape with a very large area. After ward rounds and taking care of A&E I have to travel unto 120 km out into the mountains on treacherous dirt roads without a 4×4. 3 months ago I rolled the vehicle but luckily survived. Response… They opened a case against me for reckless driving. Nevermind the hazards dirt roads that no one should be driving. Anyway… Senzo was a great guy. We were in the same med school class. He will be missed.

    1. I am really inspired by those of you already in the field. Terrible, what you are experiencing; are you at all in contact with Judasa? They should be getting involved with that case to help you out. Do take care and good luck. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. johan says:

    can words realy give life and justice to the grief that must be felt by his friends and all of the hundreds of other senseless death in our beautifull country(ie. Farm murders).working in ec i know of 3 doctors that worked with me that were assaulted while on duty in the casualty units. For what?

    1. That’s where I am hoping to return to, one day… thanks for hanging in there and not leaving the country. All of the best…

  6. Bongi says:

    the government does not learn.

  7. Thank you to all of you for stopping by. On the day of posting this entry, and the day thereafter, I had a record amount of visitors to this blog. I did not have the fortune to know Senzo, but I have heard so much about him.
    To all of those who knew him, my sincerest condolences.
    Tyhgerberg Campus, in colaboration with Hippokrates Koshuis, the TSR and JUDASA will be having a sort-of memorial service for him on Wednesday afternoon, as most of us were unable to attend the official memorial or funeral.
    Here is hoping that change will come – if not from the government, then from elsewhere.
    Take care and stay safe.

  8. Zama says:

    It is still a shock and so unfair that something like this had to happen. Senzo was an amazing guy, and great doctor who had respect for the profession and for people. It’s a great loss for his family, friends, and the nation as he was providing a service which is a need. Praying for his family and for the whole nation to find comfort from the Lord to get us through this and for the government to do something for the safety of our healthworkers. May his loving soul rest in peace. You will be sorely missed Mavovo.

    1. Zama, I am so sorry for loss. The country is certainly worse off without him. I appreciate you stopping by here. My thoughts are with his family and friends still.

  9. This is such a sad post. We have some security concerns where I work in Canada, but certainly nothing even approaching what you experience in your country, and there would be a huge public outcry if anything happened to a healthcare worker. We have had a lot of South African doctors immigrate to Canada to work because of security and other concerns, which is wonderful for us, but how sad that they’re leaving a country that needs them even more than we do. Here is hoping that your government will wake up to the situation and invest more money in ensuring that its dedicated healthcare workers remain safe.

    1. One of my fellow students was born here in SA, but grew up in Canada as her parents – both doctors – felt it was too risky to practise in the country. The “brain drain” as we call it is not new to South African professions, but it is so sad because security in hospitals is something for which precedents exist; and it should be a priority. Thank you so much for your well wishes.

  10. Dr. Phuti Magwai says:

    Still traumatised by Senzo’s death,5 months later.We went to school together,he was 1 of the most dedicated Drs I know,he could’nt wait to become a surgeon,so any idea as to whether his murderer was eventually trialled or nor?

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