A team of 50 plus SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) professionals today (Monday, 6 July) started duties in the Eastern Cape, a province ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and battling what has been called an “overwhelmed” provincial public health system.
The deployment of 12 doctors, five clinical associates and 35 nurses wearing the maroon beret of Surgeon General Lieutenant General Zola Dabula’s service follows a request for assistance to national government from Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane. The request follows recommendations made by the provincial coronavirus command council last week, a Department of Defence (DoD) statement said.
The Eastern Cape, according to the National Department of Health (NDOH), is the province with the third highest number of COVID-19 cases – 35 648 – nearly 20% of the total number in South Africa. Western Cape is number one with 69 531 (more than 40%) of cases followed by Gauteng with 63 404. As of 5 July, South Africa had 196 750 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3 199 deaths.
The call for help from provincial capital Bhisho makes Eastern Cape the first of South Africa’s nine provinces to ask to assistance over and above that coming from national government.
Last Friday, the province’s first operational field hospital admitted its first patients. Sited in what was a motor vehicle assembly plant in Port Elizabeth’s Neave industrial area, the first phase of the Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital has 1 485 beds and takes only referred patients.
Earlier today (Monday, 6 July) Port Elizabeth daily Herald Live, reported all provincial hospitals were at maximum capacity.
Of the Eastern Cape specific deployment, the DoD said “SAMHS healthcare practitioners will remain deployed as may be required by the provincial government,” adding deployment of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was provided for in the National Disaster Management Act to “render emergency services”.