Welcome to the University of Cape Town News
Healthcare’s ‘toxic’ working conditions exposed in student’s documentary
25 September 2020 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos and video Behind the Frontline Read time 4 min.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of the South African healthcare system and highlighted the need to protect the country’s frontline workers and its limited healthcare resources. It has also brought renewed attention to the working conditions experienced by frontline healthcare workers.
These working conditions are the focus of a forthcoming documentary by a University of Cape Town (UCT) postgraduate titled Behind the Frontline. The 20-minute investigative documentary reveals the toxic working conditions many South African frontline healthcare workers endure while attempting to provide patients with quality care.
Khan hopes that the documentary will draw the public’s attention to these issues and spark conversation about the need for transformation in the medical community.
“Thereafter, leaders in government and health institutions should commit to a cultural transformation in the profession that normalises the holistic care of healthcare workers,” he said.
This, said Khan, must be accompanied by policies to strengthen the existing grievance processes, to prevent bullying and discriminatory behaviours, and to hold perpetrators accountable. And this needs to be continuously monitored to ensure adherence and empowerment of the healthcare worker.
Khan believes that if staff are properly and holistically cared for, they will be more engaged in their work, more compassionate, less likely to leave their positions in the public sector and will likely make fewer medical errors, which will inevitably improve the quality of healthcare service delivery to South Africans.
This includes providing healthcare workers with appropriate and regular debriefing processes. The lack thereof is one of the challenges discussed by interviewees in the documentary.
In Khan’s experience and based on the accounts of those interviewed and his colleagues and friends, there is no official debriefing process – this despite healthcare workers encountering disease and death daily.
“Emotionally, it takes its toll, and if these feelings are not acknowledged and worked through, they can lead to burnout and mental health problems,” said Khan. *Viewers can secure a free booking to the online premiere, which will take place on Wednesday, 30 September, at 18:00.