'Some of us will die, but those left behind should continue the fight': doctor

30 December 2020 - 06:00
By belinda pheto AND Belinda Pheto
Dr Bevan Goqwana says hospitals are battlefields as the fight against Covid-19 continues.
Image: Supplied Dr Bevan Goqwana says hospitals are battlefields as the fight against Covid-19 continues.

Your chances of survival when arriving at hospital will be the factor that decides whether you get a bed, are placed in ICU or receive oxygen.

That's according to Dr Bevan Goqwana, who practices at a private hospital in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.

“This is a very stressful situation in which we find ourselves. There is a shortage and we allocate if we see a patient has a chance of survival. This is not an ideal situation, but it’s where things are at,” he told TimesLIVE.

Goqwana said this was the situation facing doctors in the private and public sectors as more people were ill and there were fewer resources.

“We are overwhelmed. Seeing patients die breaks our hearts,” he said.

Long hours at work have been a daily occurrence for him since early December, but he wants to see patients getting better.

“There is no lunch or knock-off time. Even when I go home, I worry about my patients so I don’t sleep well,” he said.

When the Eastern Cape experienced a shortage of beds for hospital admissions requiring high care or ICU, Goqwana said they used to send patients to KwaZulu-Natal. This was no longer possible as that province was also experiencing a high number of admissions.

With all the challenges facing the health sector, Goqwana said this was not the time for health professionals to fold their arms.

“We have to fight and forge ahead for our patients. Some of us will die on the way, but those left behind must continue the fight. When the vaccine comes, things will be better,” he said.

Goqwana said the lesson learnt from the pandemic was that health facilities should be ready for any eventuality.

“This is not the first or last virus we see. Other viruses will come. Let’s be on our toes to be ahead of such organisms,” he said.

SA Medical Association chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said doctors in the public sector were overwhelmed due to staff shortages.

“The health department put a moratorium on posts, and that is putting a lot of strain on available doctors. There have always been staff shortages in the health sector, but it’s worse because of the pandemic. Doctors are not coping,” she said.

Coetzee said the infection rate among health workers was worrying and she questioned the quality of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“It’s difficult to point out the inferior quality PPE by just looking at it."

Regarding the Covid-19 vaccine, Coetzee said people should not think the vaccine was a "go-to miracle cure" because it would not be received by the average population in the first phase of rollout.

She said it was disappointing that eight months into the pandemic, people still needed to be reminded about the basics of fighting Covid-19.

“People need to take responsibility. We cannot be a country that feels so little about each other’s well-being. Law enforcement authorities cannot be everywhere at the same time. I’m worried about this type of behaviour [of needing to be policed]. Government can’t do everything for you,” she said.