While most doctors have human beings for patients, Dr Anita Parbhoo has a whole hospital.
The 45-year-old manager of medical services at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital has been in that post for 10 years, and it’s her job to make sure doctors and nurses have what they need to give the hospital’s young patients the best possible care they can.
Dr Parbhoo’s role isn’t a clinical one, but the position demands a doctor’s expertise, and she often has to step in to act in the best interests of child patients, giving consent for an emergency operation, when their parents aren’t around.
Inspired to do medicine by her late father, Dr Nagin Parbhoo, she qualified from UCT in 1996, then worked as a GP, spending time in both the public and private health sectors – at the state’s Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth for two years in the late 1990s and then at private hospital in Leeds, England, for about another two years.
When she returned to Cape Town, she worked in clinics in Grassy Park, Elsies River and Salt River for five years, before being appointed at Red Cross in 2008.
Dr Parbhoo says the hospital, like any public-sector animal, struggles along as best it can with limited funding, navigating rising inflation and ever-more pricey hospital equipment. Although, she adds appreciatively, the Children’s Hospital Trust helps ease the financial squeeze with its fund-raising efforts.
Dr Parbhoo says the hospital also faces a growing burden disease and it’s always hard seeing children paying the price for adults – sometimes their parents – who abuse drugs and alcohol.
She’s thankful for the Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association whose volunteers visit the children in the wards, playing with them to lift their spirits. They also offer emotional support to families and small but necessary things like toiletry packs.
Away from the hospital, Dr Parbhoo is a mother to a 10-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy and a wife to Dr Ajit Daya she decorates cakes for special occasions – a hobby she enjoys with her daughter; she’s a flamenco dancer and goes ballroom dancing with her husband; and somewhere she’s finding time to do a Master’s degree in public health at UWC.
“I am honoured to be in a position where I can lead people, empower people in all categories of staff in the hospital to do their job better, and provide an excellent service for our patients.”