Health in 2021: Another tumultuous year in under a thousand words

It wasn’t rocket science when we predicted at the start of 2021 that South Africa’s biggest challenge this year would be to get COVID-19 shots into as many arms as possible. But the way it has played out with multiple setbacks and scrambling problem-solving is not something anyone could have predicted. In fewer than a thousand words, Spotlight editor Marcus Low takes a look back at a tumultuous year in health in South Africa.

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Opinion: We should make it much easier for people to start and stay on HIV treatment

The top priority in our HIV programme should be to make it as easy as possible for people to start and stay on treatment. Yet, as a number of provincial reports released this year by community monitoring group Ritshidze have shown, there are many healthcare system factors that work directly against this objective. Spotlight editor Marcus Low considers some of the potential solutions.

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In-depth: Dirty laundry at Eastern Cape hospitals and the plan to deal with it

Some staff members at Livingstone Hospital in the Eastern Cape say old laundry machines and staff shortages are creating backlogs in getting clean linen, towels, and hospital gowns to patients. Patients, in turn, say they have to sleep on bare and soiled mattresses often with no bedding or dirty linen. Luvuyo Mehlwana reports on the situation, its implications for infection control, and the province’s plans to deal with it.

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In-depth: Millions spent on security at Gauteng health facilities but concerns remain

The Gauteng Department of Health annually spends millions on security at its health facilities based on contracts that expired in 2016 and that since have been extended from month to month. Yet, theft, vandalism, and reports of healthcare workers who work in fear at some health facilities continue. Despite this, the department insists that spending on security is not wasteful and “the business case for security remains robust”. Thabo Molelekwa and Alicestine October reports.

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What public sector mental health services look like in the Free State

A 36-year-old mother living with HIV from Thabong in Welkom in the Free State is among the many millions of people in South Africa who rely on public healthcare services. Also, like many others, the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated disruptions have left her in a constant struggle with anxiety. Refilwe Mochoari asks what mental health services are available to people in the Free State who depend on the public healthcare system.

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In-depth: Does SA have a diabetes testing problem?

Though the numbers are relatively uncertain, it is estimated that between four and five million people in South Africa are living with diabetes. One reason for the uncertainty is a lack of testing. A lack of testing also means that many people get diagnosed too late in the course of the disease. Elri Voigt asks what we do and do not know about diabetes in the country and what should be done about it.

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Mental Health: Grief, loss – we are all traumatised, says psychiatrist on the COVID-19 frontlines

Working with Groote Schuur Hospital’s frontline COVID team, Psychiatry Professor Jackie Hoare help manage the mental health of patients admitted with severe COVID pneumonia and also the mental health needs of fellow healthcare workers. Bienne Huisman caught up with her to talk about providing counselling at the bedside of COVID patients and how we deal with the complexities of grief in a time of COVID-19.

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