Pandemic emphasises young doctor's love for medicine

Monday, June 15, 2020

It is said that healthcare workers are at the forefront of the fight against the Coronavirus, however a young medical doctor is of the view that everyone, can make a difference in the fight against the Coronavirus.

“The most important thing to remember is that you need not panic, you are the frontline of defence in this pandemic,” says Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile.

Before you roll your eyes, as young people often do, the 28-year-old is urging citizens that the fight against the virus requires effort from all areas of society, including young people.

“If you do all of the right things to keep safe, then medical professionals or essential workers have less of a chance of being exposed to the virus and because we are the last line of defence, we have a better chance of minimising the spread,” says Khanyile.

Khanyile comments come as South Africa will commemorate Youth Day tomorrow at a time when the virus has changed the way we live our lives.

The month of June is used to commemorate Youth Month in South Africa. Youth Day in particular, pays tribute to the school pupils who lost their lives during the 16 June 1976 uprising, in Soweto.

This year and for the first time, Youth Month will not be celebrated with the youth gathered in large numbers due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in the National Days being commemorated virtually.

Events on that fateful June 16, 1976 uprisings altered the socio-political landscape of South Africa, and in 2020, the current environment requires all of us to make the necessary changes while remaining cautious in order to beat the pandemic.

With the Coronavirus known to cause respiratory infections and spread primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, Khanyile told SAnews how the virus, has significantly altered her work environment.

“Our entire approach towards patients with respiratory illnesses has changed. Our wards have had to be reallocated away from the age of our patients to low-risk and high-risk respiratory or non-respiratory cases,” said Khanyile who matriculated in 2009.

“We've also had to carry our own alcohol based sanitiser as well as wearing a surgical mask the entire work day which may include having only two masks for a full 24 hour call,” she says.

Khanyile who studied medicine at the University of Witwatersrand where she obtained her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 2015.

Following the successful completion of her degree, the promising doctor cut her teeth at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg before heading to Sebokeng Hospital in 2018.

Dr Khanyile is now based at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital as a registrar in paediatric department.

As a result of the pandemic, some personal changes also had to be made.

Khanyile who traditionally wears eyeglasses, has had to trade in her sturdy eyeglasses for a pair of contact lenses.

“It has been challenging for me as I wear spectacles and have had to change to wearing contacts as my spectacles mist with the mask,” says Khanyile.

As part of the Coronavirus lockdown regulations, government has made it compulsory for all South Africans to wear cloth facemasks when out in public.

While change may be difficult, it came with an opportunity for the passionate doctor to continue to ply her trade.

At the initial start of the Coronavirus lockdown, only essential workers including health workers were permitted to work.

In addition to the restrictions on movement, government also implemented a ban on the sale of alcohol.

The ban helped to reduce hospital trauma cases related to alcohol consumption.

However, these stringent measures have since been eased with the sale of alcohol allowed from Mondays to Thursdays only.

The earlier, more stringent measures and less alcohol-related trauma cases, have allowed Khanyile more time to serve her patients.

“The most rewarding part of my job has been the fact that I am able to help ill patients who need assistance more easily as hospitals are less busy with non-urgent or trauma-related complaints. I am able to spend more time understanding patient conditions and giving appropriate feedback,” she says.

As a junior healthcare worker in the midst of a pandemic, Khanyile also highlighted the importance of arming herself with information.

Being a social media savvy doctor who uses her social media platforms to champion all health matters, Khanyile says this has been an asset to keeping abreast of developments on the “invisible enemy”.

“The most impressive thing has been the constant communication via their [Gauteng provincial government] social media pages.”

“As a junior at work, it is sometimes difficult to get access to protocols or updated statistics as they are sometimes only send them to heads of department. Being able to keep up to date with the numbers of tests and cases using that platform helps keep me informed.”

Dr Khanyile has urged youth that while the fight against the Coronavirus continues, young people must continue their studies in order to pursue their dreams.

“It is up to us to learn as much as we can now from our leaders in order to make wise decisions when it is our time to make laws when we take their places. It may seem [like a long time from now] but we are stronger together than alone,” said Dr Khanyile.

Youth Month 2020 is being celebrated virtually under the theme: “Youth Power: Growing South Africa together in a period of COVID-19”. –