The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) will have to put up with deterioration in facilities, obsolete equipment and a shortage of suitably qualified personnel this year.
That’s according to the Department of Defence (DoD) annual performance plan which also points out the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) medical service will also find itself facing a situation where it cannot staff medical personnel and will have to deal with “inadequate structures”.
This is because the service, headed by Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe, has to work with a budget of R4.7 billion. This is more than R2.7 billion less than what it requested to “provide prepared and supported health capabilities and services for the defence and protection of South Africa”.
The state of especially the SAMHS flagship medical institution, 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane, drew the attention of Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Speaking during her budget vote in Parliament she indicated she had ordered a forensic investigation into the refurbishment programme of the hospital “due to the number of years and the cost it has taken for the hospital to be fully refurbished and completed”.
Her thinking was echoed by defence analyst Helmoed Heitman. He agreed with the Minister that the refurbishment project “needed looking at” adding the day-to-day workings of the hospital should also be put under the microscope.
“There are horror stories of non-functioning bedside lamps or call buttons, extremely limited night staff and off duty nurses and sisters sleeping under desks,” he said.
SAMHS expects to head with a project patient population of over three hundred thousand in the current year. These patients are largely seen and attended to at three SAMHS hospitals in Thaba Tshwane, Cape Town and Bloemfontein as well as sick bays at bases across the length and breadth of the country.
In addition, SAMHS fields five medical battalion groups and a specialist medical battalion group for deployed and contingency forces. This sees the maroon berets deployed in locations as far afield as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Mozambique Channel and South Africa’s landward borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe in support of Operation Corona, the national border protection tasking.