South Africa

Afrikaans medical drama ‘Hartklop’ has South Africans gasping

With episode 8 of kykNET’s first medical procedures series, Hartklop set to air tonight at 8pm, it has become clear just how popular this hospital drama is, with its medical emergencies unique to public hospitals in South Africa.

Speaking to The Citizen, writer of the series, Zoë Laband gave us insight as to where she found her inspiration to write the medical scenes that has had Afrikaans tannies gasping in disbelief the last couple of weeks.

“Before I started writing the show, I interviewed a whole bunch of doctors including medical students, consultants, specialists and professors from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, as well as experts from other universities.”

Laband was on a quest to find unusual medical cases that would leave the audience in disbelief when they watched the show.

And judging by the reactions of viewers on social media, she accomplished her mission.  

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Finding exciting and exotic stories

During her research for the series and to find inspiration, Laband asked the medical professionals she interviewed about the most dramatic medical cases they had worked on, the most unusual things they had witnessed, the most terrifying things that had happened to them while working at a state hospital and the most heart-warming moments they had encountered working at a state hospital.

Laband said most of the scenarios in the hospital drama were based on real experiences, although some cases were amplified a little.  

“Obviously, we are writers so we amplify and escalate some cases so that they are more dramatic. We watch TV to be entertained, not to get a medical textbook explanation of an operation.”

She said most of the medical cases shown in Hartklop were based on medical events that happened in South Africa.

Laband said the more humorous cases were based on stories and incidents that happened to doctors overseas. The South Africa experience did not provide many such scenes for humour, especially at government hospitals things were sombre, said said.

The vaginal parasite case

In episode 1, viewers saw Dr Elani Breytenbach (Simoné Pretorius) and Dr Veronica Pietersen (Renate Stuurman) examine a female patient who appeared to be pregnant but was not. Viewers were left in disbelief when Dr Pietersen pulled a prawn-like parasite from the woman’s vagina.

“We did several Google searches on ‘vaginal parasites’ to try and find out what exactly was extracted from the patient’s uterus, but could not find any explanation/literature on it.”

Laband confirmed to The Citizen that this particular case was in fact based on real events that occurred at a South African hospital.

“The parasite was sent to the laboratory for tests, but being a government hospital, the lab staff were on strike at the time. The sample went missing and the doctor who treated the patient never found out what it was. And up to today, it remains an unsolved mystery.”

Situations at government hospitals are dire

The medical scenes from Hartklop were filmed at the Solomon Stix Morewa Memorial Hospital and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

When asked if the series is a true reflection of South African hospitals, Laband said that the hospital where filming took place was ‘so much better than the reality’. However, she added that it depended on which government hospital you go to as some had more funding than others.

“One of the doctors did tell me that it is quite normal for them not to have beds, having to put blankets on the floor and getting down on their hands and knees to treat patients.”

What to expect from the remaining episodes of Hartklop

Jolene must confront her demons when she is sent to a rehabilitation centre. Elani is injured in a shooting incident. Daniel’s mother makes it clear that not any woman will be good enough for her son, and three of the female doctors move into a house together.

“The series keeps up the seesaw of emotions and personal drama of the characters, and it gets very intense when things come to an end,” said JP Potgieter of Quizzical Pictures, the producers of Hartklop.

“Almost every main character is faced with a big choice,” Potgieter added.

Laband said the issues characters dealt with in the series addressed and resonated with daily tribulations of the viewers themselves.

The first seven episodes are available on Catch Up and DStv Stream, and each new episode will be uploaded after Tuesday’s broadcast.

The 13th and final episode will be broadcast on 10 October on kykNET (DStv channel 144) at 8pm.

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