“Assisting in times of disaster” is a task the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is constitutionally mandated to execute and the most recent tasking in this regard – in the violence and riot-torn North West – has shown the military medical service is more than capable.
Within 24 hours of being deployed to the major hospital in the province at Mafikeng, SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) doctors, nurses and other medical staff had seen and attended to no less than 131 patients. Also on the plus side of the ledger in this short timeframe was the delivery of nine babies.
SANDF Director: Corporate Communications, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, said the arrival of uniformed medical personnel and healthcare practitioners at the Mafikeng provincial hospital also saw security in and around the facility stabilised allowing unhindered access by patients. Additionally local healthcare practitioners are now able to work without fear or harassment.
He also noted the SAMHS’ presence at the hospital has seen collection of medical waste by contractors resume and the hospital’s drainage system has been unblocked, removing a potential source of illness and disease.
Military medical personnel are also overseeing and ensuring medicine is delivered from the Mafikeng depot to healthcare facilities elsewhere in the province. This has seen outpatients using Ngaka Modiri Molema, Ramotshere Moiloa, Gelukspan and Bophelong Pyschiatric hospitals as well as surrounding clinics to access prescribed and other medication.
While not strictly a military medical service, the uniformed presence has seen a radio communication network set up in support of mobile telephone networks to facilitate patient information transfer.
“The SANDF intervened in the province to help preserve lives of the most vulnerable who rely heavily on government healthcare service. This is an endeavour to ensure the constitutional right of South Africans to lifesaving healthcare is protected,” Mgobozi said.
“The Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke, would like to commend the sterling work done by healthcare practitioners of our military and encourage them to continue providing the vital healthcare services to the people affected,” the SANDF said on 4 May.
SANDF officials took over the provision of healthcare services at the Mahikeng Provincial Hospital on 21 April, caring for in-patients and out-patients following the strike by Nehawu-affiliated healthcare workers.