Medical Student Experiences Harsh Realities of Healthcare Work in Rural Community
A young man made a commitment several years ago to his grandmother who was dying from cancer that he would study to become an Oncologist and work hard to help find a cure for the dread disease.
Today, 24-year old Mr Mxolisi “Brilliant” Molefe is close to qualifying as a medical doctor after studying through UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine.
‘I always wanted to become a doctor but what reinforced my passion was the oath I took at the bedside of my dying grandma. I made a promise to her that one day I would qualify as an oncologist and perhaps find a cure for cancer.’
Molefe has been at Mseleni Hospital, a government facility situated about 60km from the border with Mozambique in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The hospital provides primary healthcare to around 90 000 rural people.
‘I have been at the Mseleni Hospital for the past six weeks as part of the “homestay project” which is a programme that places Medical students at homes close to the hospital,’ said Molefe. ‘It’s in an area called uMhlabuyalingana and I am enjoying the warm hospitality of the Mbonambi family. It is an honour to be hosted by the community “Induna” who is a well-respected spokesperson for the people.
‘My homestay project enabled me to be part of the community thus making me more conscious of the psychological and socioeconomic dynamics shaping morbidity and mortality in the community. I was keen to explore these dynamics further in the whole of the uMkhanyakude District in the company of the Ward Based Primary Health Care Outreach Team (WBOT).
‘The Mseleni Hospital WBOT serves the entire community of uMkhanyakude District and I volunteered to join the team every Friday,’ said Molefe.
The primary responsibility of the programme is to provide promotive, preventative, curative, rehabilitative and palliative services in collaboration with facility-based health services, government departments, NGOs and community-based structures.
Molefe says they visited patients from poverty-stricken households, where maintaining good sanitation and hygiene is almost impossible.
‘One can never begin to imagine a patient’s socioeconomic status, so you don’t really know your patients until you visit their homes.
‘My plea to health care practitioners is to be grateful for the warm life you live but never forget those who are less privileged.’
Molefe said he was highly distressed by conditions he saw at homes in the area and one experience left him depressed for days. ‘I have made a personal pledge to return and do my community service at Mseleni Hospital and make a difference, no matter how small my contribution is.’
He says the area is beset by hardships and difficulties made worse by issues such as a lack of home-based nursing resources and food parcel supplies, and poor roads often making vehicle access to the houses of patients impossible.
‘However, the team works extremely hard to reach every part of uMkhanyakude District as they work in partnership with community care givers and multidisciplinary team structures like occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians, and social workers.
‘I would like to thank the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Family Medicine for giving us the opportunity to experience rural medicine. So far it’s been an absolutely humbling experience and reminds us that we have a lot to be grateful for,’ said Molefe.
‘Thank you to the WBOT and the entire staff of Mseleni Hospital for your warm hospitality.’