Rural doctor hiked, swam across river to reach patients

Dr John Mitchell during his trek on foot to see patients at a local clinic on March 25 2019.
Dr John Mitchell during his trek on foot to see patients at a local clinic on March 25 2019.
Image: Dr Ndiviwe Mphothulo via Twitter

A doctor determined to treat his patients at a rural clinic hiked for kilometres with 25kg of medicine on his back and then swam across a river to reach them in the Eastern Cape.

Dr John Mitchell, 28, has been widely praised for going the extra mile to reach patients at Mzulwini clinic at Hole in the Wall on the Wild Coast after protesters had blocked the road on Monday.

Mitchell works at Zithulele Hospital, also known as Zithulele Mission Hospital.

The district hospital provides primary health care services for a catchment area of 130,000 people.

“There was a protest over electricity. Cars and people were blocked from using the road but John did not allow that to prevent him from carrying out his duties," said the hospital's CEO, Nontsikelelo Matebese. 

"He wrapped the medication in plastics and put them inside a bag. He had to walk barefoot and at some point he had to swim through the river, as it had rained previously.”

There were protests again on the road today, blocking access to the hospital and putting our visit to the clinic at Hole...

Posted by Clinical team at Zithulele Hospital on Monday, 25 March 2019

On his arrival at the clinic everyone was shocked. “We did not expect to see him,” said Matebese.    

She described Mitchell as a hardworking individual who went beyond the call of duty in doing his job.    

“We have been quite impressed with his performance. He always goes the extra mile, he’s very eager to learn and understands the importance of team work,” said Matebese.

Mitchell was not the only doctor who went the extra mile on the day of the protest.

“We have another doctor, Dr Sityhilelo Majaja, who also could not get to the clinic. When he realised that the protesters had blocked the road, he actually went to one of their homes to request that he could park his car.”

He then walked the rest of the way to work.

“It was really amazing to see. We are not perfect but quality patient care is our main priority as a hospital,” said Matebese.

The hospital caters for about 150 patients a day and has just over 140 admitted patients, according to the CEO.

Dr Ndiviwe Mphothulo of the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (Rudasa) executive committee applauded Mitchell’s effort.  

“A lot of people are not aware of the challenges that doctors situated in rural areas encounter. This is one example that we really had to showcase for people to see the good work that is being done by the doctors,” said Mphothulo.   

Matebese said the country could do with more people like Mitchell and Majaja.  

Mitchell was reportedly also learning how to speak isiXhosa because the hospital services mostly poor people, who often don't speak English. 


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