Original Research

When uncertainty becomes the norm: The Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital’s Speech Therapy and Audiology Department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Sadna Balton, Annika L. Vallabhjee, Stephanie C. Pillay
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 69, No 2 | a913 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v69i2.913 | © 2022 Sadna Balton, Annika L. Vallabhjee, Stephanie C. Pillay | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2022 | Published: 08 August 2022

About the author(s)

Sadna Balton, Department of Speech Therapy and Audiology, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
Annika L. Vallabhjee, Department of Speech Therapy and Audiology, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
Stephanie C. Pillay, Department of Speech Therapy and Audiology, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: In March 2020 the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic. Management of this pandemic had significant implications for clinical departments across the world. Healthcare systems were urgently required to reorganise and redesign patient care as well as repurpose staff.

Objectives: We will share the lived experience of our response as speech therapy and audiology (STA) clinicians to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Method: This study adopted an autoethnographic approach within Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model to describe STA clinicians’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: Adaptations to practice were made to continue service provision whilst adhering to COVID-19 regulations. We assisted in other areas to meet the immediate needs of the hospital. Service delivery strategies consisted of a review of clinical and quality assurance protocols. We developed a telehealth service package which included a hybrid approach, within a context of digital poverty. We created resources to ensure continuity of care. Collaboration within our systems facilitated innovative solutions. Mental health and well-being of staff members were key to the response developed.

Conclusion: South African healthcare systems’ inequalities were highlighted by the pandemic. The response showed that the needs of vulnerable populations were not accounted for when developing this public health response. Lessons learnt included the importance of adaptability, becoming comfortable with uncertainty and maintaining open and transparent communication. Consultation and collaboration within various levels of our healthcare system were critical in responding to the needs of patients. Commitment to compassionate leadership and staff well-being were crucial.


Keywords

COVID-19; adaptations; autoethnography; bioecological framework; collaboration; microsystem; Speech Therapy and Audiology; South Africa; solutions; telehealth; well-being

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Crossref Citations

1. The impact of COVID-19 on speech–language and hearing professions in low- and middle-income countries: Challenges and opportunities explored
Katijah Khoza-Shangase, Nomfundo Moroe, Joanne Neille, Anita Edwards
South African Journal of Communication Disorders  vol: 69  issue: 2  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/sajcd.v69i2.937