Doccie exposes suffering of junior doctors

The long, gruelling hours junior doctors across the country face during their shifts will be laid bare for the public in a new film coming out this month.

The film, Doc-U-Mentally – Last Doctor Standing is directed and produced by South African chartered accountant Francois Wahl. “Junior doctors must be insane to work under the conditions they do,” said Wahl, whose wife, father and brother all work in healthcare.

He said he was inspired to tell the story when he witnessed what his family was going through. “The effects of sleep deprivation and the hostile environment they have to work in have damaging repercussions, and it’s this I wanted to bring home.”

The film tracks five passionate doctors in their late 20s to early 30s in different fields and facilities during five different calls. The doctors:

lLourens Wahl, originally from Somerset West, who works as a community service doctor in a district hospital in Port Alfred.

The working hours coupled with limited staff make it difficult to provide patients with the best treatment and care and this affects workers emotionally, mentally and physically. He is the only doctor in the film who works in the Eastern Cape;

lSaishrien Rasen, a Durban-based second-year medical officer in surgery, who suffers through the day after his long shift trying to recover;

lWanele Ganya from Cape Town, a first-year medical intern who was rotating in surgery during shooting. He battled to give his best all the time due to the difficult working hours;

lAmy Salvesen from Durban is a first-year medical officer in emergency medicine. For her the time spent away from home, the fatigue from long shifts and exposure to disease and death are challenges that come with the territory; and

lYenziwe Ngema, also from Durban, is a third-year medical officer in orthopaedic surgery.

For her the workload dwarfs the hours in such an under-resourced climate, making it hard for her to always put her best foot forward.

They are only five of 5000 junior doctors in the country.

Wahl said there was very little direction from his side because he “wanted to produce an unadulterated film, showing things the way they truly are”.

“The main focus was to show the race against time for these doctors and how working 30-hour shifts impacts their mood, performance, stress and anxiety levels and personal safety.”

Doc-U-Mentally is due to be screened at the Jozi Film Festival on September 17 and 18 and at the UGU Film Festival in KwaZulu-Natal on September 17.

The 82-minute film is set mainly in Ngwelezane Hospital in Empangeni and shows real-life scenes of stab wounds, gashes that need sewing up, near-drownings and everything else a junior doctor encounters. —