Original Research

‘We are in this together’ voices of speech-language pathologists working in South African healthcare contexts during level 4 and level 5 lockdown of COVID-19

Skye N. Adams, Jaishika Seedat, Kim Coutts, Kelly-Ann Kater
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 68, No 1 | a792 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v68i1.792 | © 2021 Skye N. Adams, Jaishika Seedat, Kim Coutts, Kelly-Ann Kater | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 August 2020 | Published: 18 February 2021

About the author(s)

Skye N. Adams, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, School of Human and Community Development, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Jaishika Seedat, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, School of Human and Community Development, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Kim Coutts, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, School of Human and Community Development, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Kelly-Ann Kater, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, School of Human and Community Development, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has had a significant impact on every South African but more specifically healthcare professionals, including speech-language pathologists (SLPs). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa implemented a nationwide lockdown as confirmed cases continued to rise. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on SLPs has a three-fold purpose: to re-evaluate service provision, service delivery platforms and to identify the need for support to SLPs during a time of crisis. It is also crucial in guiding how policies and interventions need to be modified.

Objectives: The study aimed to better understand how the workspace of SLPs in hospitals was impacted by COVID-19, how they experienced this process and the implications for them as healthcare professionals in both the private and public sector throughout South Africa.

Methodology: An exploratory cross-sectional study design was used to meet the aims of the study. Thirty-nine SLPs from different provinces in South Africa, working in government and private hospitals during COVID-19, responded to the online survey. Results were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic content analysis.

Results: SLPs’ roles, responsibilities and service delivery were impacted by COVID-19. It was necessary for typical outpatient therapy services to be modified; there were changes to the role of the SLP in the hospital and inpatient services were curtailed.

Conclusion: This study provides insightful information to SLPs employed in hospitals to know that they are experiencing similar challenges. It also confirms the resilience of healthcare professionals, including SLPs, when faced with novel and unprecedented situations.


Keywords

COVID-19; Coronavirus disease; healthcare workers; service delivery; South Africa; speech-language pathologist.

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