Fact file: Capabilities of the SA Military Health Service

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The South African Military Health Service’s capabilities lie in its formations, namely the
·        Mobile Military Health Formation
·        Tertiary Military Health Formation
·        Area Military Health Formation
·        Military Health Training Formation
·        Military Health Support Formation
·        Military Health Support Base Thaba Tshwane
Mobile Military Health Formation

The Mobile Military Health Formation provides mobile military health support in a multidisciplinary military health combat-ready capacity (including specialised functions for land, air, maritime, clinical evacuation support) and equipment for operational utilisation at short notice, in accordance with the Department of Defence force design, national and international obligations.



·        1 Medical Battalion Group
Reserve Force
·        3 Medical Battalion Group
Reserve Force
·        6 Medical Battalion Group
Reserve Force
·        7 Medical Battalion Group
Provides medical support to the Special Forces and Airborne community. Also provides nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological defence support to the SANDF, SA Police Service, Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs and Nuclear Energy Regulator.  
·        8 Medical Battalion Group
Supports conventional force preparation exercises and peace support operations.
Tertiary Military Health Formation
The Tertiary Health Formation provides a specialist health service to ensure the development, establishment and maintenance of tertiary military health capabilities within the parameters of relevant legislation as contained in the SAMHS strategy.
·        1 Military Hospital – Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria.
·        2 Military Hospital – Wynberg, Cape Town.
·        3 Military Hospital – Tempe, Bloemfontein.
·        Institute for Aviation Medicine – Centurion. The SAMHS is not only responsible for aviation health services to the SA National Defence Force, but also for the licensing of all pilots controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa.
·         Institute for Maritime Medicine – Simon’s Town. Diving and submarine medicine.
·        Military Psychological Institute – Thaba Tshwane. The Military Psychological Institute is tasked to conduct all military psychological research and development within the Department of Defence and is also responsible for conducting assessments on members wishing to join the Department of Defence, as well as those who wish to leave due to medical reasons or any other exit mechanisms in place. The services supplied include:
  • Psycho-strategy,
  • Trauma psychology,
  • Aviation psychology,
  • Specialist selection,
  • Organisational psychology research,
  • Community psychology, and
  • Training.
Military Veterinary Institute – Responsible for the supply of veterinary services, not only to the Department of Defence but also to the SA Police Service and
Department of Correctional Services. They supply a large input into the activities of the Department of Defence, especially the environmental aspects, where game is managed on the land of the Department of Defence. Services include:
  • Preventative and curative animal health
  • Promotion of animal health research
Area Military Health Formation
The Area Military Health Formation provides a comprehensive, excellent, self-supporting, multidisciplinary area military health service through a formation headquarters commanding and controlling nine Area Military Health units to ensure a healthy military community. Services are rendered to:
·        The Presidency
·        Serving SANDF members
·        SANDF dependants
·        Retired members
·        Services in assistance to other State departments as approved
One area military unit and regional occupational health and safety centre per province: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West Province and the Western Cape. Answering to this formation are four military base hospitals, 36 sickbays, five regional OHS centres, 42 military medical clinics, 28 health centres as well as a number of sickbays aboard ships.
Military Health Training Formation
The Military Health Training Formation provides a military health training service to ensure the development, establishment and maintenance of military health training capabilities within the parameters of relevant legislation and policies. The formation controls the following schools: 
·        School for Military Health Training
·        School for Military Training – The School for Military Training presents courses ranging from basic training to SA Military Health Service Senior Management courses.
·        SAMHS Nursing College
·        SAMHS Band
·        Military Health Combat Training Centre, Lohatlha
·        Joint Physical Training, Sports & Recreation Training Centre
Military Health Support Formation
The Military Health Support Formation provides military health support, warehousing of pharmaceuticals, sundries, SA Military Health Service mobilisation equipment and unique stock, procurement of SA Military Health Service unique products, materials and services, an electro-medical equipment asset management service for Area and Mobile Military Health Formations, and the directing of SA Military Health Service product systems and co-operative common logistics.
The Formation consists of the Military Health Support Formation Headquarters with an Electro-medical Service Centre attached to the structure, the Military Health Base Depot consisting of the Military Health Depot and the Military Health Mobilisation Depot, and the Military Health Procurement Unit.
·        Military Health Base Depot – Acquisition, stockpiling and distribution of medical supplies.
·        Military Health Procurement Unit
Military Health Support Base Thaba Tshwane
Thaba Tshwane Military Health Support Base provides general base support services to identified units and other identified clients so as to sustain and maintain the approved force design and structure.
·        Physical Protection Service
·        Physical Training, Sport and Recreation Service
·        General Training Support
·        Procurement Service
·        Logistic Control Service
·        Supply Support Service
·        Transport Service
·        Facility Management Service
·        Hospitality Service
·        Technical Support Service
Does this structure support the SAMHS’s ability to support the services?
To the interested outsider the SAMHS’ structure appears sound. However, the SAMHS needs more than just a sound structure to support the other services. Also required are trained and available personnel. A confidential 2005 report on the state of readiness of the SANDF showed some stress in the SAMHS regarding the latter aspect. “The training of especially Emergency Operational Care Practitioners (Ops Medics) is problematic. Members that comply to the level of knowledge in science-related subjects are in short supply and once trained are recruited by either the Dept of National Health or the private sector offering substantially higher remuneration than that in the SANDF.” The same report noted some deployment fatigue among some medics: “In some cases members deliberately fail the refresher courses, as they have to be nationally registered to practice, by so doing they also avoid further deployments.”
Mobile Military Health Formation

The Mobile Military Health Formation provides mobile military health support in a multidisciplinary military health combat-ready capacity (including specialised functions for land, air, maritime, clinical evacuation support) and equipment for operational utilisation at short notice, in accordance with the Department of Defence force design, national and international obligations.

·        1 Medical Battalion Group
Reserve Force
·        3 Medical Battalion Group
Reserve Force
·        6 Medical Battalion Group
Reserve Force
·        7 Medical Battalion Group
Provides medical support to the Special Forces and Airborne community. Also provides nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological defence support to the SANDF, SA Police Service, Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs and Nuclear Energy Regulator.  
·        8 Medical Battalion Group
Supports conventional force preparation exercises and peace support operations.
Tertiary Military Health Formation
The Tertiary Health Formation provides a specialist health service to ensure the development, establishment and maintenance of tertiary military health capabilities within the parameters of relevant legislation as contained in the SAMHS strategy.
·        1 Military Hospital – Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria.
·        2 Military Hospital – Wynberg, Cape Town.
·        3 Military Hospital – Tempe, Bloemfontein.
·        Institute for Aviation Medicine – Centurion. The SAMHS is not only responsible for aviation health services to the SA National Defence Force, but also for the licensing of all pilots controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa.
·         Institute for Maritime Medicine – Simon`s Town. Diving and submarine medicine.
·        Military Psychological Institute – Thaba Tshwane. The Military Psychological Institute is tasked to conduct all military psychological research and development within the Department of Defence and is also responsible for conducting assessments on members wishing to join the Department of Defence, as well as those who wish to leave due to medical reasons or any other exit mechanisms in place. The services supplied include:
  • Psycho-strategy,
  • Trauma psychology,
  • Aviation psychology,
  • Specialist selection,
  • Organisational psychology research,
  • Community psychology, and
  • Training.
Military Veterinary Institute – Responsible for the supply of veterinary services, not only to the Department of Defence but also to the SA Police Service and
Department of Correctional Services. They supply a large input into the activities of the Department of Defence, especially the environmental aspects, where game is managed on the land of the Department of Defence. Services include:
  • Preventative and curative animal health
  • Promotion of animal health research
Area Military Health Formation
The Area Military Health Formation provides a comprehensive, excellent, self-supporting, multidisciplinary area military health service through a formation headquarters commanding and controlling nine Area Military Health units to ensure a healthy military community. Services are rendered to:
·        The Presidency
·        Serving SANDF members
·        SANDF dependants
·        Retired members
·        Services in assistance to other State departments as approved
One area military unit and regional occupational health and safety centre per province: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West Province and the Western Cape. Answering to this formation are four military base hospitals, 36 sickbays, five regional OHS centres, 42 military medical clinics, 28 health centres as well as a number of sickbays aboard ships.
Military Health Training Formation
The Military Health Training Formation provides a military health training service to ensure the development, establishment and maintenance of military health training capabilities within the parameters of relevant legislation and policies. The formation controls the following schools: 
·        School for Military Health Training
·        School for Military Training – The School for Military Training presents courses ranging from basic training to SA Military Health Service Senior Management courses.
·        SAMHS Nursing College
·        SAMHS Band
·        Military Health Combat Training Centre, Lohatlha
·        Joint Physical Training, Sports & Recreation Training Centre
Military Health Support Formation
The Military Health Support Formation provides military health support, warehousing of pharmaceuticals, sundries, SA Military Health Service mobilisation equipment and unique stock, procurement of SA Military Health Service unique products, materials and services, an electro-medical equipment asset management service for Area and Mobile Military Health Formations, and the directing of SA Military Health Service product systems and co-operative common logistics.
The Formation consists of the Military Health Support Formation Headquarters with an Electro-medical Service Centre attached to the structure, the Military Health Base Depot consisting of the Military Health Depot and the Military Health Mobilisation Depot, and the Military Health Procurement Unit.
·        Military Health Base Depot – Acquisition, stockpiling and distribution of medical supplies.
·        Military Health Procurement Unit
Military Health Support Base Thaba Tshwane
Thaba Tshwane Military Health Support Base provides general base support services to identified units and other identified clients so as to sustain and maintain the approved force design and structure.
·        Physical Protection Service
·        Physical Training, Sport and Recreation Service
·        General Training Support
·        Procurement Service
·        Logistic Control Service
·        Supply Support Service
·        Transport Service
·        Facility Management Service
·        Hospitality Service
·        Technical Support Service
Does this structure support the SAMHS`s ability to support the services?
To the interested outsider the SAMHS` structure appears sound. However, the SAMHS needs more than just a sound structure to support the other services. Also required are trained and available personnel. A confidential 2005 report on the state of readiness of the SANDF showed some stress in the SAMHS regarding the latter aspect. “The training of especially Emergency Operational Care Practitioners (Ops Medics) is problematic. Members that comply to the level of knowledge in science-related subjects are in short supply and once trained are recruited by either the Dept of National Health or the private sector offering substantially higher remuneration than that in the SANDF.” The same report noted some deployment fatigue among some medics: “In some cases members deliberately fail the refresher courses, as they have to be nationally registered to practice, by so doing they also avoid further deployments.”