Karl le Roux presented at the 2012 RuDASA/Phasa conference. The following article is one he wrote based on his presentation, which can be found originally on the PHASA website (www.phasa.org.za)
"My job today is to describe to you what it is like being at the rural coalface. Though I have loved working in a rural hospital for the past six years, it has also been one of the toughest periods in my life. Working in rural medicine is a bit like sitting on a rollercoaster: a combination of enormous challenge and reward, feeling exhausted and exasperated and then inspired and invigorated, seeing dignity and strength in patients, but also sadness and unnecessary suffering and death. One always feels stretched and one often feels as if one is hanging on by one’s fingertips. The rural idyll is something that might be experienced on weekends off, but the reality of the working week is that on the whole one is extremely busy and constantly rationing care and doing the best one can with the resources available. It therefore might come as no surprise to the reader that at the coalface “policies” are more often seen as a hindrance than a help to the delivery of health care. Policies or programmes are often imposed from above, with no consultation and with little understanding of realities on the ground. There is usually poor data collection and feedback, lots of time-consuming and unnecessary paperwork and a focus on irrelevant aspects of care with the neglect of critical aspects. I need to make clear that good, realistic and helpful policies are greatly appreciated by most clinicians working at primary care level, as they improve care and the health of our patients (for example the new antiretroviral treatment guidelines). But there are also many examples of policies and programmes that aim for an unrealistic gold standard (with its unnecessary and unhelpful complexity) and which, as a result, undermine the provision of good healthcare to as large a population as possible.
The first example of this is the new Road to Health Booklet. Although an extremely well-intentioned document, it is completely unrealistic to expect a busy primary care nurse to use this tool properly.