The South African Medical Association’s (SAMA) Border coastal branch hosted its annual branch member meeting on July 29 with a keynote address from Dr Madeleine Muller, a family physician, regarding professional best practice for compassionate medical care.
SAMA provides support to medical professionals across SA through an array of services such as labour law advice, private practice support and legal counsel on an advisory basis.
Chair of the border coastal branch, Dr Mzu Nodikida, says in the spirit of the association’s auxiliary role, Dr Muller’s presentation was geared towards equipping medical professionals with the internal resources needed to effectively manage difficult patients.
Nodikida says “since Covid, we realised doctors are stressed and so we decided to focus on means that can improve the doctor-patient relationship so that doctors avoid taking their stress out on their patients. This presentation should help practitioners be better carers.”
Dr Muller’s presentation advocates for doctors to foreground compassion in their treatment of patients through mindfulness and awareness, especially when dealing with “difficult patients”.
Muller has been studying the neuroscience of stress and how stress impacts decision making, judgements and behaviour, and says these effects creep into engagements between doctors and their patients and though this is inevitable, it can be managed.
Muller emphasised there was no foolproof way to respond to each finicky patient, and at best doctors should aim to avoid inflaming any tension or hostility a patient was directing towards them and vice versa.
Muller makes a distinction between the survival brain and the high prefrontal cortex, emphasising that as the world becomes more complex, social relations will force doctors to engage with the world from a level higher than that which dictates basic survival responses.
She adds “the kind of things people do and say on social media, for instance those comments and reactions are kneejerk, they don’t often have any critical thinking to them and acting like that won’t help anything except make situations worse.”
In addition to Muller’s workshop, medical practitioners who have contributed a great deal to the region received awards for their service, amog them Dr Luvuyo Bayeni, who received the Local Hero award, and Dr Richard Makomba who received the award for Meritorious Service.
Dr Bayeni has played an important role within the Eastern Cape health department. He is the clinical manager at Cecilia Makhiwane, has acted as the CEO of Livingstone and Tower hospitals and recently served as acting district manager for Joe Gqabi Hospital.
Dr Bayeni says the award means a great deal to him, given that it is an affirmation from his peers in the medical fraternity that the contribution he is making towards improving public health systems and management platforms is valuable.
Bayeni says his approach to leadership is to motivate the workforce and promote synergy among health professionals as a team so that the staff contingents in the Eastern Cape are orientated towards achieving the goals of the department of health.