Cape Town - An investigative medical documentary to be released at the end of this month gives insight into the harmful environment that health-care workers have to endure, which then affects the efficiency of their service.


A documentary that highlights the stressful working conditions of health workers will be released soon. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

The pressure experienced in South Africa’s hospitals has a detrimental impact on medical workers, who suffer from bullying and discrimination.

The launch of Behind the Frontline aims to broaden people’s perception of the fragile health-care environment that could help them understand the country’s overall health-care system. Executive producer of Behind the

Frontline documentary, Adil Khan, said: “I have seen first-hand what effects of this toxic environment have on the mental health of health-care workers. After completing my mandatory three years of work, I wanted to share these experiences with the general public.

“I wanted to draw the link between having a dysfunctional health workplace with a dysfunctional health-care worker and ultimately dysfunctional service delivery to you and me.”

Khan said from the personal experiences and stories shared with him, the major forms of abuse were either racial or gender-based discrimination.

The head of the Junior Doctor Association of South Africa, Dr Theresa Mwesigwa, said there was a bit of a grey zone when it came to bullying, abuse and mistreatment.

“Someone may be in a situation where they feel uncomfortable and they are met with the idea that they’ve all been through this, so one should just accept it and move on. Some of the reason that people don’t come forward is out of the fear of victimisation and because the medical profession is so hierarchical in nature,” she said.

Mwesigwa said the medical industry was still male-dominated and there were a lot of complaints about junior doctors or interns being mistreated, and victims and survivors of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

Khan said the documentary aimed to expose the dysfunctional health workplace, ultimately leading to a dysfunctional health service.

“Having a toxic work culture could relate to burnout and mental health problems which could result in increased absenteeism, presenteeism (being at work but not fully functioning), increased medical errors, braindrain from the sector (leaving to go to the private sector or overseas, for example). This then may cause reduced quality of health care, increased waiting times and worse clinical outcomes of patients,” he said.

Khan said these issues had been allowed to continue for far too long and the ultimate effects were seen by the public who engage with the health system. It was therefore a collective responsibility to protect them.

More information can be found here:




Cape Argus
By Sukaina Ishmail
8 September 2020
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