A lack of treatment and care options, excessive workloads and defence against self-traumatisation are some of the reasons why doctors at Red Cross Children’s Hospital do not form close bonds with their AIDS patients.
This is according to a qualitative study conducted by Dr Marta Lik of the University of Cape Town’s psychiatry department based on her interactions with eight senior paediatric registrars.
“The most prominent feeling experienced by the registrars treating children with AIDS is an overwhelming sense of sadness and despair,” said Lik, writing in the “Maternal and Child Health News”.
“They struggle with their own hopelessness, knowing how little they can offer.”
Doctors often had to break the news to parents that their child was HIV positive and many struggled with that.
“Counselling with HIV is very difficult, especially when the children have tested positive,” a registrar told Lik. “You have to go back and tell the parents not only is your child positive, but you’re probably positive too.”
“Dealing with huge numbers of dying children makes the doctor, understandably, ‘harden’ or detach from the patient and the patient’s parents,” said Lik. “This may be detrimental to the quality of the patient’s care, both physically and particularly psychologically.”