The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) has assembled a 60-strong multi-disciplinary medical task group (MTG) in response to last week’s call by the acting Health Minister for assistance to combat a surge in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng.
The MTG will deploy “immediately after the necessary government processes and protocols are finalised” according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Directorate: Corporate Communications (DCC) director, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi.
Mgobozi’s statement has it the military health team’s ranks will include military medical officers, nurses and operational emergency care practitioners (OECPS) from both SAMHS full-time and Reserve Force components. Ahead of starting work, the MTG will convene at the SAMHS Training Formation in Thaba Tshwane for pre-deployment protocols and what the SANDF statement terms “NDOH (National Department of Health) determined medical check-ups”.
Surgeon General Lieutenant General Zola Dabula on Monday sent off healthcare practitioners ahead of deployment to Gauteng public hospitals. Dabula told the team at SAMHS Training Formation their first point of departure is Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto. He warned strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols is the only effective weapon against what he called a “health war”.
Dabula expanded on how the SANDF is coping saying: “Our systems are under pressure as the Military Health Service. Despite that, we had to balance between assisting the provincial health department while not neglecting our clientele – the military community”. He warned against complacency and used statistics to highlight the current status of the pandemic in the military community.
This deployment follows an agreement between acting Health Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as Gauteng experiences a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases the SANDF reports. On 21 June, South Africa’s economic hub accounted for 6 292 new positive cases out of 9 160 nationwide.
Military personnel will be involved in mass community testing, screening and contact tracing and generally assisting at hospitals.
As far as can be ascertained, President Cyril Ramaphosa has yet to approve the SANDF deployment, as he is required to do. Previous deployments, usually termed “employments” in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s notification that soldiers and other military personnel will be utilised in the national interest or in furtherance of government’s foreign policy objectives, have reached senior officials in the National Assembly and/or the National Council of Provinces when underway and been backdated accordingly.
Military medics arrived at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on Monday the SANDF said. There is, at the time of publishing, no indication of when the deployment will end. Military healthcare workers are also due to deploy at Lilian Ngoyi community health centre in Soweto’s Diepkloof, according to the Surgeon General.