KZN Health MEC's plea to men -

  • Put bravado aside, come forward and seek healthcare to avoid premature death;
  • Don't "change" your ailment based on who's attending to you at a health facility;
  • The Department will allocate male nurses at clinics, CHCs and hospital to make it easier for meant to be honest about what is bothering them;

10 July 2022

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane has urged men to put their pride aside and realise that seeking medical help is not a sign of being "too soft", but can enable early detection of diseases and prevent premature and unnecessary death.

MEC Simelane is also cautioning against the dangers of men relying on their wives and girlfriends' medical results as an indicator that they're safe from diseases, and insists that the most accurate approach is for each individual to get tested, so that they know for sure where they stand as far as their health is concerned.

And, to make it easier for men to speak more openly about diseases that plague them, the MEC has re-iterated that the Department will allocate male nurses to clinics, community health centres and hospitals, "so that a person with a sexually-transmitted infection or symptoms of prostate cancer doesn't suddenly say they're suffering from a headache, just because they're being attended to by a young female nurse."

The MEC was speaking on her Department's weekly _KZN Health Chat.Gov multimedia programme_ on Friday, as the Province continues to observe Men's Month throughout July.

MEC Simelane said: "Yes, the Department caters for the health needs of everybody in society. But in the course of what we do, it has become clear that there are certain population groups, such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) group that need to be treated in a special way. Men, as a population group, also need our specific focus because their attitude towards their own health, and towards the healthcare system... is concerning.

"For us, finding men proved to be such a challenge that Government had to establish a programme dedicated to finding men and bringing them to healthcare facilities. Generally, men only come forward when they're too sick.

"It is such a problem in our society, that we've even come to accept that, in any family, the man is the one who must die first. When married couples reach 80 or 90 years of age, it is regarded as an anomaly, which shouldn't be the case. It is not natural that men must die early. It is precisely because when men are sick, they do not come to our clinic... to the doctor, or to the hospital.

"When a man has an eye problem... firstly he will not speak up. Not because he's not in pain, but he does not want to go to a nurse and explain, and thinks that's a waste of time. Men, unlike women, persevere until it's too late. And by the time they present at a healthcare facility, their ailment has been prolonged and it is too late for them to get help.

"Some men don't go to the clinic because they don't want to leave their drinking buddies behind. Some think going to hospital is an indictment on their masculinity. They think it's a sign that they're not 'real' men, because real men are not supposed to feel pain. They look at 'what society will say.'

"We want men to realise that we take them seriously, and to know that there's nothing wrong with being a man who goes to hospital when you're sick. It doesn't mean you're 'too soft' too you're not a _kleva_."

The MEC says it is not uncommon among many couples that a woman will go and get tested for a myriad ailments, such as COVID-19, HIV and diabetes, and when they come back with a clean bill of health, the man will say, "Since you've been cleared, it means I'm also fine," forgetting that a person's health condition is their own, and does not necessarily reflect on anyone else.

"Each and every person must test for themselves. When you talk to men, they'll say, 'why must I get tested for HIV because the woman of this house always gets tested.' But this is not advisable because some couples are sero-discordant (one partner may be HIV negative, with the other is HIV positive)."

In keeping with MEC Simelane's announcement when she delivered her Budget Speech in May 2022, the Department is forging ahead with plans to make its facilities more "Men-Friendly."

The initial target for the first phase of this project is to ensure that at least 80 healthcare facilities have a male nurse during the day and after hours, who is dedicated to men's unique health needs.

MEC Simelane said: "When we engage with men, especially the older ones during _Isibaya Samadoda_, one of the things they say is, 'I can't go to the local clinic because when I get there, I'll find my neighbour's daughter, or wife, who is a nurse. It then becomes difficult for me to tell them what I'm suffering from.' This is why a person who might be having the symptoms of prostate cancer may end up saying he's suffering from a headache. They say, 'If there you had more male nurses, then we'd be able to speak out freely.' That is why we have started this initiative that will ultimately result in all our facilities having a male nurse.

"All in all, we encourage men to come forward and visit healthcare facilities... not only in July, but every day," said the MEC.

Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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