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Cape Town doctor wins big at the national Batho Pele Excellence Awards

Dr Barry Smith, the medical manager at Karl Bremer Hospital received the the Silver Award in the category Best Doctor of the Year at the national Batho Pele Excellence Awards. Picture: Western Cape Government

Dr Barry Smith, the medical manager at Karl Bremer Hospital received the the Silver Award in the category Best Doctor of the Year at the national Batho Pele Excellence Awards. Picture: Western Cape Government

Published Mar 30, 2022

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Cape Town - The national Batho Pele Excellence Awards has awarded the Silver Award in the Best Doctor of the Year category to Dr Barry Smith.

Smith, who is the medical manager at the Karl Bremer Hospital in Cape Town, shares the award with Dr Mzekelo Godongwana from the Amathole Stutterheim Hospital in the Eastern Cape as the two were deadlocked in a tie.

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The Gold Award in the 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.

As the nation marks two years of Covid-19, Smith and his fellow colleagues have been on the frontline since the first case hit South Africa in 2020.

As cases of Covid-19 surged in South Africa and the Western Cape, the local government established field hospitals for those infected with the virus.

Dr Barry Smith, the medical manager at Karl Bremer Hospital received the the Silver Award in the category Best Doctor of the Year at the national Batho Pele Excellence Awards. Picture: Western Cape Government

Smith played a significant role in the management of the Hospital of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) where he was responsible for clinical management.

Later, he managed the Brackengate Hospital of Hope as the chief executive office in July 2020.

According to the Western Cape health department, Smith further played a key role as the medical manager at the Karl Bremer Hospital as the second wave of Covid-19 infections hit in December 2020, a period when the hospital transformed its ordinary wards into Covid-19 wards.

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“Now, the Karl Bremer Hospital medical manager has been honoured for his contribution and resilience in combating 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,” the health department said.

According to Smith, his work during the pandemic has been one of his most meaningful contributions to the public healthcare sector.

“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,” he said.

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Smith said being a manager during an historical pandemic did not come without challenges as working in the healthcare sector came with a high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability.

“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,” he said.

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Smith has also wanted to pursue a career in healthcare and holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Stellenbosch University

Smith and his team are now taking on the pressures of the Karl Bremer Hospital Emergency Centre and said they are experiencing a rise in patients with complicated diseases, likely following the impact Covid-19 had on patients’ healthcare-seeking behaviour and access to services.

While challenges will also be at the forefront in this sector, Smith 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,” he said.

He credited the support from relatives and colleagues as the driving force behind his success.

“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 selfless 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,” Smith said.

In 2021, Smith was awarded the gold award for exemplary leadership at the annual Western Cape Government Service Excellence Awards.

Karl Bremer Hospital’s chief executive officer, Jonathan Lucas congratulated and praised Smith for his dedication and passion.

“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!” Lucas said.

The Western Cape Health department echoed Lucas’ words and thanked Smith for his fearless leadership and dedication in the fight against Covid-19.

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