Anxiety builds for Limpopo families separated by Covid-19 hospital regulations

Anxiety builds for Limpopo families separated by Covid-19 hospital regulationsThohoyandou family unable to visit their loved one at Tshilidzini Hopsital due to Lockdown regulatons. Photo: Ndivhuwo Mukwevho/ Health-e

“I sometimes feel like I’ve deserted my mom but there is nothing I can do – it’s beyond my control,” says Mulalo Namgammbi whose mother is a cancer patient at Tshilidzini Hospital.

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While having family members or close friends admitted to hospital anxiety-inducing enough, not being able to visit them and witness how they are recovering can exacerbate the issue 

Mulalo Nangammbi knows the pain of having to support a hospitalised loved one from distance.  

Nangammbi, who is from Thohoyandou, has been unable to visit his mother who is being treated for cervical cancer at Tshilidzini Hospital. He finds the situation increasingly difficult to deal with, as he can’t keep track of how his mother is doing. 

As one of the precautionary measures to help combat the spread of Covid-19, the provincial department of health has suspended visiting hours at hospitals 

“My mother has been at Tshilidzini Hospital for few weeks now,” Nangammbi says, but she often travels to Mankweng Provincial Hospital in Polokwane to be assessed by an oncologist. Not being able to visit her makes life even harder for us a family, even though we do communicate with her through phone calls, says Nangammbi. 

Nangammbi says even seeing his mother once a week would ease the anxiety he feels about her condition and recovery. 

“I get worried because I don’t see how my mom is recovering, as she is also subjected to long travelling hours, as she needs to travel to Polokwane for treatment. I know that rules are rulesbut the strain is proving to be too much for some of us and there is nothing that we can do. We just have to wait and pray for the best – that one day she will return home fully recovered and healthy, he says. 

There are only two employed oncologists currently serving in Limpopo – both working from the Mankweng Provincial Hospital in Polokwane. Per World Health Organisation (WHO), access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, but the strain that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on healthcare system everywhere has affected many people primary care provision. 

“The current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic is so difficult to deal with, especially when you have a family member in hospital. I sometimes feel like Ive deserted my mom but there is nothing I can do – it’s beyond my control. I was hoping that since we started with level three lockdown regulations, they would ease the ban on hospital visits, but it seems like thats not going to happen anytime soon,” added Nangammbi. 

Communicate via all channels 

Psychologist Livhuwani Mbewe says that when patients admitted at hospitals are unable to see people who are close to them, they tend to take more time to recover.  

“Spending more time at the hospital and not being able to see your relatives and close friends can have a negative mental impact on the patients and can make it difficult for them to recover quickly. When patients can see people who are close to them they tend to recover quickly as they know that they have a support system but when no one is visiting them they might lose hope,” he says. 

Mbewe says that the feeling of isolation affects both the patient and their support system, and that “people who are unable to visit their loved ones in hospitals might worry about whether their loved one is recovering”, as Nangammbi is. 

Although people are unable to visit their relatives in hospitals, life can be made easier by keeping consistent contact by using various forms of communication available. For people at home, I suggest they keep themselves busy by doing things they love, such as reading a book or working in the garden, says Mbewe.  

He further adds that when patients are unable to see families and friends, they tend to stress and worry, which often worsens their health.  

But the rules have been put in place to protect all of us and we should abide by them.” 

According to the Limpopo health department spokesperson, Neil Shikwambana, rules are still in place.  

“At the moment hospital visiting hours are still not permitted but we have systems in place which we are using to communicate with families of patients,” says Shikwambana– Health-e News.