From as early as 4:00 in the morning, Dr Nothando Moyo-Mubayiwa is already up for a 5km or 10km morning run with the rest of the Sishen Mine team at Kumba Iron Ore in the Northern Cape, writes Dineo Phoshoko.
As the occupational health superintendent at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen Mine, Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa is responsible for both occupational health and wellness — dealing with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and the prevention of occupational diseases. She also runs the emergency department at the mine.
Speaking to Mining Mirror in an interview, Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa mentions that each day is “hectic but manageable”. She is very fond of the early-morning runs. “It’s actually our coffee for the day. When you run, you get energised,” she explains. After the early-morning run, Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa prepares for a meeting with other doctors between 6:00 and 7:00. Thereafter, she heads to the mine for more meetings and seeing patients if needed. Every day is different, though.
Weekends are set aside for community park runs. The park runs were established to encourage fitness and health in the mines. “We started our first park run in Kathu and all the other smaller towns are following suit. Before we know it, Kathu is going to be a hub of healthy people,” she says with enthusiasm.
Passionate about occupational health
Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa started out her career at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg. She admits that working at the hospital was hectic. She therefore pursued an alternative career — still in medicine — but in a more easy-going environment with regular hours. Before moving to Kumba, Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa completed a two-year Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Medicine and Health from the University of Pretoria. With the diploma, Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa was officially qualified in occupational health.
For Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa, working in occupational health has become a passion. “What is great about occupational health is you actually get to make a change; not only in just the mine itself, but in the community around you. It’s a hands-on job where you are thinking ahead and ensuring the health and wellness of the mine employees and community.” A career in occupational health has allowed her to implement educational programmes for employees on the ground and run campaigns about different types of occupational health diseases. These include TB month and World AIDS Day, fatigue awareness, and noise and dust campaigns, to mention a few.
The doctor believes that, for the campaigns to be successful, community involvement is important. As such, the programmes and campaigns have been spread to the wider community, even in the schools with outreach programmes. Through the outreach programmes, 9 000 students have been reached in over 200 schools. Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa holds a strong view that children have the power to influence their parents in making safe and healthy lifestyle choices.
The programmes and campaigns have been successful, as in 2017, Kumba managed to achieve a fatality-free year — both on the safety and health side. In addition, there has been a significant reduction in HIV-related deaths. Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa attributes this success to greater awareness about health in the mine and communities.
Getting to this point was not easy because previously, a great deal of stigma was associated with HIV and TB. There was also not much awareness about managing such medical conditions. Many people were afraid to test for either TB or HIV and would end up dying because of not taking treatment. “The nice thing is that now, our people are much more educated about HIV. People are actually acknowledging that there is this disease and they can live with it,” she adds.
Career milestone and looking ahead
“Joining Kumba was one of the highlights of my career,” she says eagerly. At Kumba, Dr Moyo-Mubayiwa worked her way up to become a superintendent. In her opinion, this role is strategic and has allowed her to implement certain changes regarding health. “When you are actually making a difference and putting things in place, it drives you and keeps you going. It becomes a passion.” One of the campaigns she speaks passionately about is the ‘Awesome ME’ campaign, spelled ‘Oresome ME’, in keeping with the iron ore mine weight-loss competition, where 825 employees voluntarily joined.
Looking ahead, there is lots more she would like to achieve in her career. For one, she would like to make a greater impact in the Northern Cape by changing people’s perception about healthy living. She would also like to implement recreational activities that will encourage a healthy lifestyle. The passionate doctor believes that collaboration between mines could result in a greater impact. For now, she is happy to be influencing the community and working with the community to encourage healthy living — ensuring that mine employees report for work safely and also leave safely. “If people are physically, mentally, and socially healthy, everything will move forward,” she says.