Jo'burg doctor joins popular Al Jazeera medical show

Her first stop was at the CB Dunbar maternity hospital in rural Liberia in February this year.

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - A South African sexual and reproductive health specialist, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng has joined the presenting team on one of Al Jazeera's most popular medical shows, The Cure, to host two of its segments for season five.

Mofokeng, who is also an activist, was recently included in the Mail & Guardian's top 200 Young South Africans list for her work as a private practitioner, producer of sexual health videos, women's health and sexual health advocate and the vice-chairperson of the Sexual & Reproductive Justice Coalition.

Revealing the state of HIV treatment in Zimbabwe and working with a maternal and child health group in Liberia, Mofokeng described the production process as an eye-opening experience.

Her first stop was at the CB Dunbar maternity hospital in the rural Bong County of Liberia in February this year, where just three full time doctors serve the 65,000 population.

This was followed by a visit to the Redemption hospital in Monrovia, which provides free health care to a large slum area.

She says, "I suppose in the worst hospitals we have, it doesn't get as bad as the areas I saw, especially in Liberia. We were covering a story around maternity and how nurses are being upskilled to do caesareans. It was soon after the Ebola crisis, so people were very much still on high alert and they lost so many doctors and nurses"

Mentioning some of the challenges faced by midwives on the backdrop of poor sanitation and a shortage of drugs, Mofokeng says, "The nurses are being upskilled and being taught how to perform caesareans and they are doing so well at that, and yet because they doing so well they are delivering very premature babies who do not have as good paediatric care as they deserve and require. It was very emotional at some points but it was great to see that even in those circumstances, people make it work."

Mofokeng says that she witnessed a woman giving birth during an electricity outage and heard of nurses operating by torchlight, sometimes improvising with a needle holder with a blade on it when a scalpel was not available.

She also had to step in to help during the birth of two breech twins.

With neither baby breathing, Mofokeng says she put on gloves and stepped in to help keep them alive, without incubators or even a stand for the team to use to resuscitate them.

The doctor insists that the country's health care systems need a cash injection.

"To really make an impact, I think the health care systems themselves need little bit more work and money to be put in there, because that's what improves the system. Because the human resources within the system is awesome, but it's everything else around them that is failing them. With that, they can't deliver the type of health care that they have been trained to deliver."

The segment on HIV treatment in Zimbabwe screens on Al Jazeera English on 21 July, with her segment on Liberia screening on 28 July.