Doctors Give Back to SA’s Most Vulnerable Communities
When ophthalmologist Dr Sachin Bawa chose to spend a few days in 2019 volunteering at Tintswalo District Hospital, a 423-bed public hospital located in Acornhoek in Mpumulanga, it was because he wanted to give back to one of South Africa’s more vulnerable rural communities.
Since then, he has returned to Tintswalo twice more and will continue to volunteer his skills and services when he can.
“It’s a richly rewarding experience,” says Dr Bawa. “Each time we volunteer, my colleagues and I spend a few days performing check-ups at the clinic and cataract surgeries at Tintswalo hospital, and when we leave, we know we’ve made a meaningful difference to the local community.”
The community is so excited when ophthalmologists volunteer at Tintswalo and the local clinic that they sing when the doctors arrive.
“Cataracts cause blindness, but they’re reversible, which means we can make a meaningful impact to not only our patients, but their families and communities as well,” says Dr Bawa. “Patients who arrive for their surgeries must be supported by family members because they can no longer walk by themselves. A day later, they walk out unaided, with the renewed gift of sight. It’s a very different experience to private practice.”
The larger community impact is also important to volunteers like Dr Bawa. “Cataracts prevent younger people from working, and they make the elderly a burden on their families because someone has to remain home to care for them. Overall, the economic impact is large. The ability to assist in this way – and to have such a far-reaching effect on the local rural community, is incredible.