Award for life-saver doctor
A KwaZulu-Natal doctor who has reduced HIV transmission rates in new-born babies by almost 70% and spearheaded a successful circumcision drive has scooped the Rural Doctor of the Year award.
A modest Mmabatho Kekana, however, shies away from the limelight, saying it is "just in the line of duty".
On Friday last week the medical manager of Hlabisa Hospital in Mtubatuba beat 15 other rural doctors after initially being nominated by the Umkhanyagude District medical officer, Dr Harvey Williams.
"I wasn't expecting it. I've never thought of what I've done as wonderful. I thought it was just in the line of duty," Kekana said.
However, Dr Jenny Nash, convener of judges for the award, heaped praise on Kekana, describing her as a "quiet motivator" with "an amazing work ethic".
"She has really changed the morale at the hospital. She doesn't just sit in her office, she goes and helps out in the hospital," said Nash.
Kekana's secret to success is a simple database system that tracks all pregnant HIV-positive women and that follows through thoroughly.
The rural hospital delivers 300 babies a month but in 2007 their Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) treatment was only 25% successful.
"It was terrible," Kekana said. "It meant that 75% of our babies were being born HIV-positive."
But when the 52-year-old introduced the database system, the PMTCT success rate jumped to 92% in 2009.
Staff were able to monitor which mothers needed treatment and avoid mothers slipping through the cracks in the treatment programme.
"The results are outstanding ... Most of the babies are just [HIV]-negative. It's so exciting when you get a result and the baby is negative," she said.
Kekana has seen how preventative healthcare can help alleviate the burden on rural doctors.
"Before we come to treatment we forget completely about preventing the disease," she says.
While the "very active" doctor tackles HIV transmission to babies she has also spearheaded circumcision camps to educate men about HIV.
"KwaZulu-Natal has the highest prevalence of HIV so we have to come with creative ways of fighting this disease. We decided to start targeting the men."
Providing an opportunity for a safe circumcision is how men are drawn into an HIV-awareness campaign.