Doctor sets hospital on new course

2016-10-12 06:00
THE Selfridge-family are, from the left, Rachel (15), Hannah (20), Liam, Molly-Jean Refilwe (1), Jack, Claire and Tara.  Photo: Supplied

THE Selfridge-family are, from the left, Rachel (15), Hannah (20), Liam, Molly-Jean Refilwe (1), Jack, Claire and Tara. Photo: Supplied

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CLINICAL MANAGER at the Dihlabeng Regional Hospital Dr Liam Selfridge says he and his team want this hospital to be the best public hospital in the Free State.

Previously the hospital has received very negative media publicity, but this month Selfridge, Tsietsi Makume (his CEO), and the hospital’s executive committee (head of nursing Mannini Royi, head of admin Sibongile Mpanza, managerial accountant Teboho Mocher and chief artisan Siegmund Grové), were commended for their leadership by Lindelwa Dunjwa, chairperson of the national portfolio committee, who visited Bethlehem.

Selfridge was born to missionary parents in 1973 in Katete, a village in Zambia. His Irish father and English mother met at a Bible college in England and both ended up in Africa doing missionary work. They were married in 1969.

After leaving Lusaka, they spent time in Ireland, but moved to Cape Town in 1980, where Selfridge finished school.

“My father worked on the Cape Flats with a whole lot of churches. He was a Bible college lecturer,” says Selfridge.

After he matriculated, he studied for AA-levels in Ireland (similar to matric) to be accepted to study medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“I had always wanted to study medicine.

“Nothing else appealed to me.”

He married Claire in Ireland in 1995 and their eldest two children were born there.

In 1999, the family moved to South Africa for Selfridge to commence his studies at UCT in January 2000. During his medical studies, two more children were born.

“Growing up, I enjoyed the mission hospitals and seeing how it could help.”

The church he attended in Cape Town was involved in church planting in Lesotho and does a lot of HIV-work, which Self­ridge was involved in.

“I applied to both the Phekolong and the Dihlabeng hospitals to do my community service (comserves) year,” he says.

Selfridge stayed at Phekolong for almost two years until the end of 2008, when he came to Dihlabeng.

“At the Dihlabeng Hospital, since it is a specialist regional hospital, one can rotate through the different departments.”

He says at the bigger hospitals, young doctors stay in a department and then either specialise or become a senior medical officer in that department.

“I wanted a bit of everything. I am still very attracted to ‘rural’ medicine, much more rural than Dihlabeng. Going some-where like Zambia or Malawi has always been an interest.”

To be able to do that, he must be able to do a bit of everything.

“You have to be able to give anaesthesia, do a caesarean and a laparotomy. I worked at the gynea department, surgery, anaesthesia and then I went to the intensive care unit, orthopaedics and casualties,” he says.

Selfridge says this helped him to become the clinical manager at Dihlabeng.

“This is on regional level and you learn a lot and that helped me to run clinical services. You know the departments, its strengths and weaknesses. The job can be quite stressful and sometimes everything is out of your hands, sometimes due to a budget point of view.”

Selfridge says the hospital has a high rotation of medical officers, “which is a compliment to us.”

At the end of 2015, a lot of medical officers left at the same time and to replace them all was difficult. The number of the medical staff dropped to a few officers and that was when they were called the “hospital of death” by the media.

“Since then, we have had interest, support and we now have comserves, which we did not have before.”

As clinical manager, he is always on call and always responsible.

“The job is fulfilling and stressful at the same time.”

Selfridge spoke highly of his medical officers and the specialists working and consulting at the hospital.

Before Selfridge was appointed as clinical manager in October last year, he often acted as clinical manager.

Currently, he sometimes acts as CEO.

Not much time for hobbies

Selfridge loves the outdoors and is a member of a camping club in the area, but there is no time for other hobbies.

The family adopted a fifth baby that was abandoned at the Dihlabeng Hospital.

His wife works part-time from home in the beauty industry and is kept busy with the children.

Hannah (20) is studying nursing at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Jack (18) is writing matric exams at the Voortrekker High School, Rachel (15) is in gr. 8 in the same school and Tara (12) is in gr. 6 in the Truida Kestell Primary School.

Little Molly-Jean Refilwe (1) is their adopted child and Selfridge says the adoption process was tougher than he ever expected due to the long time it took and the process used nationally.

“It was almost if they were trying to find suitable babies for parents, rather than suitable parents for babies.”

He says he had conversations with the non-governmental organisation involved about the problems and understands their legal concerns.

“I would still recommend people to do it. In the end, you get the satisfaction. We did not do it out of charity or to help a baby to help South Africa. We believe the baby came into our lives.”

THE Portfolio Committee for Health visited the Dihlabeng Regional Hospital two weeks ago and they commended the executive committee of the hospital.

In the last year, the lifts, boiler and generators were replaced and the hospital does not outsource services.

The chairperson of the committee, Lindelwa Dunjwa, complimented the kitchen to be “better than some private hospitals” and the mortuary being “clean enough to have tea”.

Dunjwa was pleased with the leadership and said the hospital proved that good public hospitals can exist.

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