PROFILE: Biokineticist stretches skills to the fight against covid-19

A passion for health promotion and a desire to heal have helped Feroza Lekota in being the bearer of bad news for covid-19 patients. 

The coronavirus pandemic has required the utmost strength and resilience from a biokineticist employed by the department of health in the Western Cape, who is part of the covid-19 contact tracing team informing individuals of their results and assisting in isolation and food distribution.

Feroza Lekota (35) has to call individuals who have tested positive for the virus. Some calls are easy, such as when the individual lives alone and has not been in contact with anyone. However, others can be more complicated. “This can entail finding out that the individual is living in an informal settlement with 10 other family members in a home that only has two bedrooms. All those individuals will have to then go into isolation. As well as work colleagues if the individual has been working,” she says.

Isolation facilities are then provided for those who cannot isolate in their homes. This includes placing individuals in hotels and providing food for those unable to buy or go to stores.

As a biokineticist, Lekota is an exercise specialist involved in increasing a person’s physical condition and quality of life through physical assessment and the prescription of health exercise habits. Before the coronavirus outbreak, she was involved in implementing healthy lifestyle programmes in low-income communities, worksites and schools across the Western Cape, in order to reduce cases of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

However, the pandemic has brought such activities to a halt because of the prohibition of large gatherings and Lekota’s work has shifted to infectious disease and counselling of covid-19 patients and their families.

She says her experience as a biokineticist has helped in this shift of work in terms of her skills in talking to and guiding individuals who suffer with chronic illness. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. “This is an area that is completely new to me and a skill I’m learning and improving on every day. Some days are emotionally draining and taxing, especially when the person infected has passed away or is hospitalised.”

Dr Frederick Marais, director for increasing wellness in the provincial health department and Lekota’s boss, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “It’s been helpful having her on board as a permanent team member full-time because of the numbers we deal with. It also helps that she has health background experience which is a great asset in terms of providing health-promoting information and education to the cases and their contacts.”

Although Lekota works from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, she has to be available for emergency calls on weekends or if a translator is required for a Xhosa-speaking individual. This has been a challenge as she is studying towards a master’s in biokinetics. “Time management has been a struggle because work has now taken precedence over my study and writing time for my dissertation,” she says.

Being involved in health and biokinetics has been a life-long dream of Lekota’s with her passion for healing people guiding her career choice and perseverance.

“Since I was very young I have always had some interest in the power of healing. As a human, my purpose is to be of service. I have found that being in health has given me that purpose. If I can improve one individual’s quality of life, I would have fulfilled my purpose.

“My future plan is to pave the way for biokineticists to integrate into the public healthcare system (hospitals and clinics) as well as to advocate for health professionals to use social media as a tool for health promotion and behaviour change in public health,” Lekota says.

FEATURED IMAGE: Feroza Lekota at work, where she has to inform people of their covid-19 test results and to help positive patients with isolation and food parcels. Photo: Provided

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Wits students do not TOP numbers

Although legal abortion statistics in South Africa have gone up, a campus nurse says the numbers of students who opt to go for abortions have gone down over the last five years.

Last week Monday health minister, Aaron Mostoaledi, released statistics showing a 31 % increase from 2010’s 59,447 to 77,771.

The three provinces which ranked highest were the Free State, North-West province and Gauteng.

During 2011 there were 21, 944 abortions carried out in the Free State, followed by 12,138 in the North-West and 11,239 in Gauteng.

According to a paper by Lynette Vermaas, a researcher from the Student Development and Support (SDS) at Tswhane University of Technology (TUT), student pregnancies at tertiary institutions worldwide are increasing every year despite the assumption that students have sufficient knowledge of the risks of unprotected sex.

Campus Health and Careers Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) work together in assisting female students make informed decisions about termination of pregnancy (TOP).

Sister Maggy Moloi, a nurse at Campus Health, said the clinic advocates for “family planning education, especially to first years [students] during Orientation Week.”

She mentioned the clinic does not, carry out abortions because it offers primary healthcare which includes services such as family planning and treatment of STIs and HIV testing.

CCDU psychologist Toinette Bradley said: “We do work with Campus Health but students wanting ToPs are usually referred to clinics and hospitals.”

Moloi said Campus Health refers students to the Marie Stopes near Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto because it’s much more affordable than the one in Ghandi Square.

When asked whether students use termination of pregnancy as a contraceptive measure she said: “Most of the students access contraceptives from the clinic. They do know about the service.”

However, she believes that generally young women do not access contraceptives from clinics because they are not educated about the different types of contraceptive measures available.

Moloi said the problem is fuelled by misconstrued information about the effects that birth control pills have on their bodies. Young women don’t communicate with their parents about sexual matters because they are considered as taboo in some families.

Although the statistics referred only to legal abortions, Sister Moloi said the biggest problem faced was that people still go for backstreet abortions and “some end up with infections or even worse, they end up dead”.

An example of this was the death of University of Johannesburg (UJ) student, Ayanda Masondo (20) earlier this year. Masondo was found dead in her residence room from what was reported to be a botched illegal abortion.

Campus Health’s relationship with CCDU helps with the possible emotional consequences of abortion.

“Those students who come back frustrated and depressed because of the abortion, then we refer them there for further counselling,” said Moloi.

She believes the clinic used to have “a huge number of students coming in for assistance for abortions but compared to five years ago to now, the numbers are very low”.

 

Published in Vuvuzela 22nd edition,31 August 2012