The Sims come to life

A Wits medical student disagrees with claims in the media that a simulation unit for medical schools will give their students the edge.

The University of Free State opened its doors to its simulation training unit where simulation dolls are used to teach medical students, The New Age reported this week.

Unit head Dr Mathys Labuschagne proudly showed members of the media how the human patient simulators come alive during a tour of the unit.

Caryn Upton, a 6th year MBBch at Wits, said the simulation dolls don’t give UFS medical school an upper hand over other medical schools.

“In first year you don’t know enough about the human body to work with it. The best experience comes from working with people like we do at Wits. Maybe for universities that don’t have enough hospitals and doctors to work with, these dolls can be useful,” she said.

The simulation dolls known as the “Sim man”, “Sim woman” and “Sim baby” are attached to computers that control and monitor them. The simulation dolls breathe, blink and are able to react to resuscitation and medication administered to them.

Labuschagne explained that the Sims give the students an opportunity to interact with real-life situations in their first year. Previously, medical students would have their first encounter with a human body when they worked on cadavers in their second year.

“The purpose is for students to learn in a safe non-threatening environment to manage emergency situations” he said.

The Sim woman doll will be used for simulating birth, natural as well as a Caesarean procedure.

“When the woman gives birth, she makes noises simulating pain and effort. Water and blood come out,” Labuschagne said.

Baby Sim can be treated in an intensive care unit linked to a monitor and computer, can simulate basic heart and lung functions, and will allow medical students to practice resuscitation, a lumbar puncture and how to insert drips with artificial blood in the veins.

The new system gives lecturers the ability to monitor students via computer in another room and add a level of difficulty by changing the condition of the Sim. When the condition of the Sim deteriorates, the student has to act quickly as they would in a real-life situation. The lecturers then assess the student based on how they handle the situation.

The unit will also be open to give refresher courses to doctors and other health professionals who have already qualified.

Disability no excuse for Pistorius: Witsies

Members of the Wits disabled community have expressed dismay over the fall from grace of Oscar Pistorius and say the Paralympian should not get special treatment because of his disability.

Pistorius was arrested on February 14, for the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

His earlier successes on the track have made him an inspiration to people living with disabilities.

Ricardo De Sao Joao, a Wits master’s student living with a disability, said the news is especially shocking because disabled people are seen as meek and subdued when all they want is to be treated equally.

“One of the main issues about Oscar’s situation is whether he should get special treatment because he is disabled or famous. In the eyes of the law he should be treated in the same way as anybody else,” said De Sao Joao.

De Sao Joao, who is an international relations student, said some things are inescapable when you live with a disability.

“You will never be considered normal, if anything this incident shows that disabled people are prone to anger issues just like anybody else,” he said.

Mthokozisi Ndaba, a first year BA student living with a disability, said he felt sorry for Pistorius because his life had been changed forever.

“His disability might have made him feel vulnerable at the time but he shouldn’t use his disability to get special treatment in court now,” said Ndaba.

Ndaba said that for him, as someone living with a disability, special treatment would be “two steps forward and ten steps back”.

Steenkamp was shot in the head, arm, hand and hip. According to City Press, Pistorius’ father received a call from his son just after 3am on Thursday, asking him to come to his house.

When his family arrived, Oscar was carrying Steenkamp’s body down the stairs from his bedroom to the entrance hall. Her head and arms were “dangling”. He allegedly told his sister, Aimee, that something terrible had happened and that he had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

Police sources told the paper that Steenkamp was shot through the bathroom door. It is argued by Barry Roux, Pistorius’ defence lawyer,  that the athlete broke down the bathroom door to help Steenkamp after he mistakenly shot her.

According to the state prosecutor Gerry Nel, Steenkamp had arrived at the house between 5pm and 6pm on Wednesday night, February 13. He argued there were no signs of forced entry or evidence to support Pistorius ‘claims that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar.

ALTSA leaders break ranks

Members from the unions ALTSA, ASAWU and NEHAWU gathered outside the Great Hall Steps at 12pm to protest the break down in wage negotiations with Wits Council. Photo by Jay Caboz

By Lisa Golden and Nandi Ndlazi
Photographs by Jay Caboz

Wits Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) leadership accepted the terms offered by Wits management after last-minute negotiations last night but failed to inform some of their members of this decision. This left the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) to strike by themselves today August 28 against Wits management.

This morning confused ALTSA members arrived at the picketing lines, unaware that their leaders had accepted an agreement with Wits management the night before. Some were confused and frustrated when they found out.

This is the second strike by the academic unions this month. They are demanding an increase in salaries for workers, an agreement to structure salaries around the 75th percentile, resolve issues with parking and provide a childcare facility for workers among other issues.

Ian Walters, and ALTSA member and an administrator in the Wits School of Arts, was unaware that ALTSA had backed out of the strike, and only found out when he arrived at campus in the morning.
“I’m staying on strike because I’m in support of NEHAWU and ASAWU. That was the original idea,” said Walters.

Adele Underhay, the president of ALTSA, was unavailable for comment, and some members of the union also couldn’t reach her.

David Dickinson, president of ASAWU said it was regrettable that ALTSA leaders had chosen to break ranks. “I respect the independence as a union and the decision of their leadership is what they must account for to their membership” Dickinson said.

Negotiations between the Wits Executive Council and ASAWU, ALTSA and NEHAWU was re-opened a day before the strike. Photo by Jay Caboz

The Wits Senate (the academic leadership forum) made a call to halt the striking unions “without further delay”. Photo by Jay Caboz

Fellow ALTSA members expressed their disappointment in their leadership’s acceptance of management’s offers. Barbie Pickering from the finance faculty said she didn’t know about their union pulling out at the eleventh hour and they only received the e-mail this morning.

“We went into this thing to support all the unions. We are not happy with our union leadership on that,” said Pickering.

The rally, which started at noon, had speakers that reiterated the unions’ demands. Carl Beaumont, an ASAWU member, congratulated the ALTSA members who turned up at the rally while fellow strikers applauded the group.

The Student Representation Council and the Wits Workers Solidarity Committee again pledged their support for the striking unions.

The final word from Beaumont was that the unions are prepared to strike again if their demands are not properly discussed and considered during negotiations.