“I had to not be too focused on the negativity” – local doctor on working during the pandemic

Dr Mathobela Matjekane is the founder of Cape Town based CliniMed.
Dr Mathobela Matjekane is the founder of Cape Town based CliniMed.
Supplied/Dr Mathobela Matjekane

With over 100 days since the first coronavirus case was announced in South Africa, healthcare workers, supermarket workers and others have been on the frontline of the workforce during this pandemic. Healthcare workers around the country are at a much higher risk of becoming infected, and have the added stress of not only being safe at work but to also ensure the safety of their families.

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Dr Mathobela Matjekane, founder of Cape Town based CliniMed (a private healthcare facility which offers primary and dental health care, wellness programmes, optometry as well as aesthetic solutions), spoke to DRUM about her work during this coronavirus pandemic.

“I would not know when my day would change or what I would hear with each patient that walks into my practice. I realised early that in order to stay sane, I needed to not focus too much on the negative news because doing so proved to be very emotionally draining."

“At the beginning, it took some time for us to get ready. In a day, I would maybe see 10 patients, and four out of that 10 would be a positive case. That's when it also hit them that this is real. It became real,” she says. “With this, came the added stress of making sure we take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves, not only for our patients but also for our families.”

Healthcare professionals are usually the first point of contact for anyone who feels sick or suspects they’ve contracted the virus. “With patients who’ve lost a family member, or those who are experiencing symptoms, you can see their fear and you feel it too.”

As with any medical practice during this time, they’ve also had their fair share of challenges. “There are so many things we deal with daily. We had a case where one of our patients wasn't isolating when we checked up on them. Then, there's contact tracing. If we had a patient come in and they tested positive, we have to look at who assisted them or sat close to them and ensure they’re safe or they get tested.”

Matjekane says working during this trying time has taught her and her team is to be more aware of each other. “This has made us so much more aware of each other as colleagues. You notice the smallest cough or the slightest change in someone. Even with our patients who are on chronic medication and haven't been coming to collect it, you notice their absence. There's a higher concern for them so we also do our due diligence on that end to get the medication to them.

“Education about the virus is still important. The government can only do so much, so it’s important people are well informed and knowledgeable about what it means if someone is symptomatic and asymptomatic. That even if you don’t experience symptoms, you’re might still have been exposed to the virus. People need to be informed and understand that they play a role in their safety and exposure to the virus.”

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Matjekane expressed that her motivation lies in servitude and being there for other people. “I realised there are people who look up to me and expect me to show up so I had to be there for them. Even with my colleagues, in the beginning our finances took a hard hit, but we realised people needed us now more than ever and had to show up,” she says.

“Someone had to do what we’re doing. This gap, although financially and emotionally strenuous, had to be filled.”

She has worked right through the lockdown, and her colleagues at work and in the medical field have played a big part in carrying her through. “We carry each other through, so on days where I’m not feeling at my best, my colleague would be in high spirits and encourage me to face the day and I would then do the same for them. We’re each other's support system, and even when we lost patients, we pulled each other through not only for our patients, but for each other.”

She also believes God has helped her to show up in her job everyday. “I also believe  God carried us through to where we are now. Therefore I always have the belief that it’s going to get better,” she says.