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Voices: Dr Lydia van Kesteren (Belgium)

Dr Lydia van Kesteren (Belgium)
Placement: Butterworth Hospital, Eastern Cape
Dates: January 2018 – present

In January 2018 Dr Lydia van Kesteren from Belgium started working at Butterworth Hospital in Amathole in the Eastern Cape. The hospital serves the rural Mnquma population of 286 000 people and has 350 beds and an Emergency Department. The hospital is massively understaffed, with 15 doctors and clinic associates.
Dr van Kesteren has been working for five months in the paediatric ward, which has 25 beds. One of the biggest challenges she has faced is earning the trust of the nurses. In the last two months, however, there was only one paediatric death, which Lydia says has definitely influenced the nurses’ opinion of her. ‘We work hard, and we work more as a team now and that definitely seems to have had an effect’.
In the last year the hospital had 28 paediatric deaths.
‘Our referral hospital in Frere says they can see a difference in the quality of the referrals since we (me and the UK doctors) arrived.’
Lydia says she is winning over the nurses gradually. One of her strategies was to buy them a small treat in April when there were no paediatric deaths in the ward. Lydia noticed that everyone was more motivated than usual for the rest of that day. She also believes in giving the staff compliments, noticing small things about their appearance as well as their good work. ‘I also try to explain why I want certain things to be done so they understand and also feel part of the decision making.’