Best Doctor of the Year: Cape doctor wins Silver at National Awards | Western Cape Government


Best Doctor of the Year: Cape doctor wins Silver at National Awards

30 March 2022

Running a hospital can be challenging, but what happens when you manage a hospital during a pandemic? Like many healthcare leaders, Dr Barry Smith showed unwavering dedication to fight COVID-19 and to save lives.

In March 2020 preparations were being done for the re-configuration of services in response to the pandemic. Towards the end of April 2020, a team of people were pulled together to operationalise the field hospital project which included the CTICC Hospital of Hope and Brackengate Intermediate Care Facility.

Dr Barry Smith has played a significant role in the management of the CTICC Hospital of Hope where he was responsible for clinical management and later opened and managed the Brackengate Hospital of Hope as the chief executive officer in July 2020. He further played a key role as the medical manager at the Karl Bremer Hospital during the second wave of COVID-19 in December 2020, a period when the hospital transformed ordinary wards into COVID-19 wards to save lives.

Now, the Karl Bremer Hospital medical manager has been honoured for his contribution and resilience in combatting the pandemic. Dr Smith has received the Silver Award in the category Best Doctor of the Year at the national Batho Pele Excellence Awards. He was honoured along with other public servants under the theme, Combatting the COVID-19 pandemic through a Batho Pele focus, Putting People First.

Dr Smith describes his work during the pandemic as one of the most meaningful contributions he’s made to public healthcare.

“Being able to provide leadership to the teams I work with and doing my best on a daily basis to create an enabling working environment that leads to quality healthcare services of high public value, has the most meaning to me. Some of the highlights of my career has been my involvement in the Swartland Hospital fire disaster response and recovery and the contribution to the COVID-19 response at Karl Bremer Hospital and the COVID-19 intermediate care facilities (CTICC Hospital of Hope and the Brackengate Intermediate Care Facility).”

Being a manager during the pandemic did not come without challenges. “Working in the healthcare services comes with a high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability, mainly because this is a business about people. Dealing with such complexity, forces you to value your team members and to encourage teamwork and it requires an ongoing openness to learning and improving in order to meet the healthcare demands of the communities we serve. Although it is very encouraging to receive such an award, I don’t see it as something one can actively pursue. Being recognised for work that originates from a personal sense of purpose and passion is a bonus because this is where the true reward lies.”

As a young medical student at Stellenbosch University, his desire was to save lives and to improve healthcare in our country.

“I have always been fascinated by the natural sciences and I am energised by interacting with people. I saw medicine as the perfect field where humanity and science meet when I studied MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) at Stellenbosch University.”

His passion for making a difference continues to drive him and now Dr Smith and his team take on pressures in the Karl Bremer Hospital Emergency Centre. The hospital is often under severe pressure due to an influx of people accessing healthcare via the Emergency Centre. Residents experiencing minor ailments have been encouraged to first access healthcare from their nearest primary healthcare facility to reduce pressure on the EC.

“The pressure in the Emergency Centre is usually a good gauge of what is happening in the community. We saw this clearly with the various COVID-19 waves and levels of lockdown restrictions. Substance abuse remains the highest contributing factor to the extremely high mental health burden we deal with. Currently, we are experiencing a rise in patients with complicated disease, likely following the impact COVID-19 had on patients’ healthcare seeking behaviour and access to services. Under such conditions, it is essential to identify and prioritise those patients who need true emergency and urgent care at hospital level. We stretch every resource we have and work as efficiently as possible to meet the demand at the hospital, but it is essential that all the contributing factors on every level of the health system and in the community are addressed simultaneously.”

Despite these challenges, Dr Smith says his career comes with many rewards and he hopes to continue delivering safe healthcare beyond COVID-19.

“The most rewarding part of my job is being involved in any process that brings positive change. I am privileged to work close enough to the frontline to experience the impact of clinical service delivery and my position as medical manager also allows me to observe and influence the functioning of the broader health system. I would like to be able to say at the end of my career that I have done the greatest good for the greatest number of people and, on this journey, that I have inspired those around me to contribute to their full potential.”

Dr Smith says his journey to becoming a leader in healthcare was made possible through support from his loved ones and colleagues.

“I owe this award to my family that has been my biggest support and who have kept me grounded in all my undertakings. The remarkable team I work with has inspired me in so many ways through their self-less commitment, caring attitude and competence.  I am thankful for the many extraordinary role models in my career that have demonstrated compassionate leadership towards me, who have trusted me enough to live out my potential and supported me whether I succeeded or failed. The leader I would like to be is one that is grounded in his team, who acts with discernment and wisdom and achieves a greater good through understanding and kindness. During the pandemic I have been inspired by people who have shown these qualities.”

Dr Smith shares a quote that has guides his work: “You are most yourself when you are wrapped up in your purpose, not your position.”

Last year, Dr Smith received the prestigious gold award for exemplary leadership at the annual Western Cape Government Service Excellence Awards. Karl Bremer Hospital CEO, Mr Jonathan Lucas, has praised the medical manager for his dedication and passion to delivering excellent healthcare.

“On behalf of Karl Bremer Hospital, we want to congratulate Dr Smith on this special achievement following his national award. He truly embodies the values and characteristics of an exemplary public servant. Having been recognised at a national level for a job well done mirrors his work ethics and his desire for excellence both as a manager and a clinician.  We are all super proud of him!”

Western Cape Government Health is extremely proud of Dr Smith and thanks him for his fearless leadership and dedication in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Your compassion and bravery are valued, and we thank you for your continued efforts to improve healthcare for all patients!

* The Gold in the Best Doctor of the Year category was a tie between Dr Phetho Mashaole Mangena from the Mankweng Hospital in Limpopo and Dr Nicholas Ernest Pearce from the Free State Health Department. The second position was also a tie between Dr Mzekelo Godongwana from the Amathole Stutterheim Hospital in the Eastern Cape and Dr Barry Smith from the Western Cape Department of Health. Well done to all nominees and winners!