More than a hundred military health personnel are currently deployed in trouble-torn North West, running the province’s major provincial hospital and ensuring the supply of medication to patients is uninterrupted.
One of 109 deployed, one who currently finds himself at Mafikeng Hospital is Major (Dr) Bhekisizwe Mtshadi. The emergency medical practitioner whose home unit is 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane, is reported by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) news as saying: “Since the pharmaceutical depot was taken over 10 SA Infantry Battalion and military health practitioners, chronic medication and other medical supplies have started moving, patients are admitted, assisted and discharged”.
The SANDF said protests in the province, now under the management of national government, saw major disruptions in the supply of medicines to hospital and clinics across North West. This saw closure of the pharmaceutical depot in Mafikeng, “the hospital depleted and no medical apparatus”.
“The deployment of military health practitioners alleviates the plight of affected residents in the province.”
SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communications did not respond to a defenceWeb enquiry as to which units were deployed but did inform this publication SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) personnel are rotated every 10 days and this rotation will be utilised until “a decision is made on withdrawal of the deployment”.
“There is no SAMHS equipment deployed in this operation. SAMHS support is human resource as per the SANDF mandate,” a statement said.
No patient treatment numbers other than those released after the first 24 hours of the deployment have yet been released. In the first day/night period at Mafikeng Hospital SAMHS doctors, nurses and other medical staff saw and attended to 131 patients and delivered nine babies.
The arrival of military health practitioners had, according to Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, a stabilising effect on the hospital and saw security improve to the extent where locally based healthcare practitioners are able to work without fear or harassment.
President Cyril Ramaphosa set the wheels in motion to intervene in North West by placing it under administration. Parliament confirmed on Sunday it receiveda letter from the President to invoke section 100(1) of the Constitution, which will allow the national executive to take over the reins of the province.
According to the Constitution, when a province “cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the Constitution or legislation, the national executive may intervene” by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation.
Cabinet’s decision follows ongoing protests that engulfed North West, leaving the province paralysed.
One of the biggest blows faced by the province is the protracted strike in the Health Department, which left patients unattended as healthcare workers downed tools.
During the President’s meeting with North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, the provincial government and political leaders, in a bid to diffuse the protests that saw several buildings being set alight, a number of issues were raised.
According to the President, some reasons raised by leaders for the protests were issues with Premier Mahumapelo, governance and corruption.
The Premier announced on the national broadcaster last week he would resign but reneged and instead took a leave of absence.
Premier Mahumapelo appointed North West Finance, Economic and Enterprise Development MEC Wendy Nelson as Acting Premier.