Our Culture of Care

Mediclinic’s corporate social initiatives affect real people, with real lives. 

Bob Govender, Industry Affairs Executive: Mediclinic Southern Africa, has always been passionate about helping his community. Having grown up in an impoverished area in Durban, he has first-hand experience of the difference quality healthcare can make in ordinary people’s lives. 

Bob Govender

“Even now, with their private medical insurance, my parents prefer to use state healthcare facilities,” he says. “It’s something of a social occasion, of course, but the treatment and care we’ve received in state hospitals has always been great. They have always served us well.” 

Bob Govender and Nomafrench Mbombo

The drawback is that surgical backlogs have long been a concern in state hospitals, as they’re often forced to prioritise high numbers of urgent, life-saving acute care procedures while experiencing constrained theatre time and resources. 

That’s why Govender is motivated to work with these hospitals to assist ordinary people in lower-income communities. How? By offering Mediclinic’s trusted expertise and world-class facilities to act as an equal partner with our colleagues in the state sector, for the benefit of patients on surgical waiting lists. 

Over the years, Mediclinic has played a significant role in helping to alleviate backlogs, by offering doctors’ expertise and our hospitals’ theatre time pro bono to patients awaiting life-changing elective procedures, who are selected by state facilities. 

“These are real lives that we’re helping to put back on track.”

Bob Govender, Industry Affairs Executive: Mediclinic Southern Africa

“We’ve done ear, nose and throat procedures for children in Pietermaritzburg, cataracts for retirees in Bloemfontein, cleft palate repairs in Gauteng – even robotic surgery in Durbanville, Cape Town,” Govender says. “It’s been a long and complicated road, and immensely rewarding.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated those backlogs, with a recent report estimating that at Groote Schuur Hospital alone, between 10 000 and 15 000 much-needed and long-awaited surgeries were not performed over the past two years. 

The pandemic has had a twofold effect on Mediclinic’s efforts to alleviate backlogs in the state sector, says Govender. “First, the magnitude – if you multiply the numbers we see in the Western Cape across the country, it’s clear that state hospitals will struggle to work through those waiting lists anytime soon. Second, and this is rather surprising, is the hunger to help.”

Mediclinic doctors are raising their hands to contribute like never before, he says. In Kimberley, for example, three doctors have volunteered to perform 100 pro bono cataract surgeries within the next year. 

“To have doctors come to us with that kind of enthusiasm is fantastic, as it makes everything that little bit easier,” Govender explains. “It gives the whole process energy.”

Govender’s primary role in these initiatives is to forge new partnerships across the divide. Facilitating the process of having state patients admitted to Mediclinic hospitals for pro bono treatment over the weekend requires collaboration across the board – and it’s a job in which he takes a great deal of pride. 

“If you think about a grandmother with cataracts who can see properly again after surgery, that’s not just one person we’ve helped. She can watch her grandkids, help in her community, make a living. A child with inflamed tonsils, who can’t breathe or sleep properly, or ear issues, who can’t hear or speak correctly – if you can fix that early, then they can develop as they should. These are real lives that we are helping to put back on track.”

This passion to help wherever possible is in his blood, Govender says, but he’s often surprised by the close camaraderie of those around him. “The only time you can speak to doctors or politicians is after hours or on the weekends – and they always answer. The ministers of health, the hospital general managers, the nurses – they’re driven and passionate about wanting to ensure these patients get the best possible care. They want to work together. They want to help each other.”

Image credit: Shavan Rahim/New Media

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