Becoming a doctor was Dr Lungile Leslie Hobe’s way of giving back to her mother. Today, the young doctor has an impressive list of achievements and ambitious plans to improve the quality of healthcare in her community of Mseleniin KwaZulu-Natalwhere she grew up.During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 35-year-old medical officer has had to step up and manage Mseleni Hospital, a new role that she’s taking in her stride.

Giving back to her mother and her communityDr Hobe grewup in Mseleni, Umkhanyakude, in the remote northern part of KwaZulu-Natal near the Mozambican border. Today, she is thechair of the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa, an Umthombo Youth Development Foundationgraduate and trustee, and a 2018 Discovery Foundation Rural Institutional Award recipient.In a podcast interview with Azania Mosaka, Dr Hobe shared her remarkable story and explained the impact her mother, a nurse, had on her life.

“Being a doctor was my mom’s dream. What was really inspiring about my mom was that even though she was a rural girl, she had veryhighhopes, dreams and aspirations for her life. Going into medicine for me was a way of giving back to her.”

Listen to the podcast:Episode 12 part 2

Building up rural healthcare in Mseleni

Dr Hobe earned her MBChB degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2006andjoined Mseleni Hospital in 2010. In 2018, shereceived a Discovery Foundation Rural Institutional Award to improve the quality of care at Mseleni Hospital, a 185-bed rural district hospital with 10 primary healthcare clinicsthatserves about92 000 people.

Mseleni is more than a hospital, it’s a community centre that takes care of its people.In 2004, Mseleni Hospitalspearheaded the clinic-based initiation of antiretrovirals. It hasdeveloped specialist surgical services,built a strong network of clinics and community caregivers, and is involved inorphan care, youth projects, an early childhood development centre,and more.

“I hope to witness quality medical care being offered to rural communities,” she says.“My idea is amodel that goes beyond the hospital into the community. I think COVID-19 hasmade us realise this can be done with proper planning, infrastructure allocation and the will to do it.”

In 2018, Dr Lungile Hobe received a Discovery Foundation Award to improve remote rural healthcare.


Stepping into a new role during a pandemic

SincetheCOVID-19 pandemicreached South Africa, Dr Hobe’s duties have shifted from being a doctor and seeing patients to managing the hospital.

“I am grateful for having had a medical manager who was very dedicated to her work. Before she leftthe hospital, she made surethat all the groundwork had been done to preparethe hospital for COVID-19,” Dr Hobe says.“I have had to step up and act as medical manager while we await the appointment of a new manager. Even in this position,I feel I was properly prepared by the previous manager,which made a big difference.”

“There is definitely a lot more work to be done,but I appreciate the medical team of Mseleni Hospital for always pulling together and supportingeach other,” she says. “I have a clinical manager whois very experienced;he is my sounding boardand I value our chats a lot.”

“Personally,of course,there’s daily anxiety of possibly getting infected and this affectsthe interactions I have with my family,” Dr Hobe adds. “But they have all been very supportive and for this I’m grateful, especially to my husband.”


Passionate about women’s health

Dr Hobe has paused her Master of Medicine (MMED) studies –on the barriers to breastfeeding in rural communities –for now. “My MMED hasn’t been moving, but I trust God that it will happen soon,” she says.

Yet she remains determined to improve rural healthcare for women. “I’m very passionate about women’s health issues within the community. Women suffer a great deal from abuse in all forms:physical, sexual, financial and emotional.”

She describes the problem:“According to the statistics for this district, most households are headed by women. There are high rates ofpoverty,HIV and malignancies like cervical cancer. I would love to start an NGO that would operate in this community to assist in addressing all these and,going beyond that, to include programmes for men,as they are part of the solution.”

Dr Hobe recognises her mother’s hand in everything she takes on. “My mom remained my role model over the years. She wasn’t scared to discuss real-life issues with us in an era when sex talk was taboo. She is a gutsy lady and I always dreamed of being like her and making her proud.”

Discovery thanksDr Lungile Hobe for her continued work on the frontline in Mseleni.

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