Occupational medicine registror Dr Itumeleng Ntatamala epitomises the kind of doctor South Africa needs: energetic, dynamic, selfless and dedicated. He has focused his work on the occupational side of the health sector, aiming to improve the quality of care provided to patients accessing public health services and to develop his interest in how work and life intersect.
As a rural doctor in Limpopo Province prior to moving to the Western Cape, Ntatamala who was born and raised in Polokwane and studied medicine at the University of Cape Town, championed children’s health rights, and was awarded the premier’s silver prize for innovation in the public sector for his work in transforming the paediatric ward in Limpopo Province’s Mokopane Hospital into a child-friendly environment.
As executive member of the Junior Doctor Association of South Africa in Limpopo, he was actively involved in advocating for improvements in the working conditions of junior doctors, a role he has continued as Western Cape representative for the South African Registrars Association.
During his time as a shop steward and labour representative in the health sector, he witnessed the poor attention paid to the prevention of exposure of health workers to hazardous conditions, which resulted in his special interest in improving healthcare conditions for patients and health workers alike.
Ntatamala’s passion in this area was recently recognised through his appointment by the Western Cape Member of the Executive Council for Health in 2018, as one of the youngest members on the board of Groote Schuur hospital. As a doctor training to become a specialist, he is involved in diagnosing and preventing work-related illnesses, and providing technical support to the Western Cape department of health. He is also involved in assisting former mine workers affected by silicosis, a lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust, with claiming for occupational compensation.
As a medical registrar, he is responsible for training medical students on work and health, and supervising public health projects.
As a youngster, Ntatamala was fascinated by the role of work in society, and how it not only provided an income but allowed people to play an integral part in society and contribute to the country’s development.
“However, as a medical student, I was dismayed to discover the other side of work: that it can expose workers to hazards that may be harmful to their health and cause injuries on duty, cancers, respiratory diseases and even death. I made it my life’s mission to better understand the connection between work and health, and to use this understanding to help advocate for more just and favourable working conditions for all.” – Linda Doke
LinkedIn: Itumeleng Ntatamala