Dr Maura Lappeman – newly appointed head of Clinical Psychology at Lentegeur Hospital

Dr. Maura Lappeman is the newly appointed principal psychologist at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital. She previously worked for almost a decade at the community and district level in Khayelitsha.


In 2020, she completed her PhD in Psychology at Stellenbosch University. Her dissertation focussed on the provision of care to those who experience stillbirths at Khayelitsha Hospital in the Western Cape, South Africa. The research is based on a psychosocial paradigm and draws from a psychoanalytic understanding of healthcare organizations. From my observations and interviews, it was clear that no one was being overtly mistreated at Khayelitsha Hospital and patients were medically well attended to. Although there was no apparent physical or emotional abuse, however, I noted a silence in the ward which I later learned was experienced as alienating by the mothers. I noted that there were limited interactions between the women and the healthcare practitioners apart from a competent and caring focus on medical issues. I suggest that the limited engagement between patients and healthcare providers was founded partly on deep cultural and socio-economic differences between many staff and the patients, and on varying degrees of expectation of care on the part of different people in the system.  In the overburdened healthcare system (where both staff and patients are often overwhelmed or traumatised), silence can be a way in which a system defends itself against what it knows it cannot provide. While the challenges in the provision of healthcare in South African state institutions are complex, this research provides a window into the opportunity for training and a new perspective on the provision of maternal mental healthcare for mothers who have stillbirths, and more broadly.  Dr. Lappeman’s research focus is thus on community psychology and health systems. She has published her work in international journals like the British Journal of Psychotherapy, BMC International Health and Human Rights, and Violence Against Women, amongst others (M. Lappeman SCOPUS). 


As the head of clinical psychology at Lentegeur Hospital, clinically Dr. Lappeman hopes to continue to help improve healthcare systems for continuity of patient care across all platforms community, district, specialised, and tertiary). Her research and teaching interests are in the improvement of health systems, community psychology, and adapting psychology to our local context.