The newly appointed General Officer Commanding Area Military Health Formation, Brigadier General Mcebisi Mdutywa, is determined to make the Formation the flagship of the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS).
He told SA Military Health Service News about his plans and vision of his new position – he was adorned with Brigadier General ranks by Surgeon General Zola Dabula on 1 March. “We have to turn things around. The south African healthcare model is twisted, it’s more heavy on the tertiary than primary level. Now we have to bring in primary healthcare to the organisation,” he said, emphasising that preventing people from getting sick will reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
Speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic, Mdutywa said, “SAMHS is never at the forefront but this time SAMHS is at the forefront and everyone is supporting SAMHS.” From the start of the pandemic, the SA National Defence Force was called on to provide assistance, under Operational Notlela, and continues to do so.
“We have said we are going to defend our country no matter what and are willing to die for our country but in this instance it’s not necessary,” Mdutywa said. “If we could not have even one healthcare practitioner passing away because of this we would appreciate that. But they must keep on doing the good job because we are the front lines – we are in the middle of a war, a biological war. They [in SAMHS] are the ones going to be shooting the first rounds and the first rounds are the needles and treatments.”
Alongside the Surgeon General, Mdutywa has hit the ground running, taking part in continuous oversight visits. These visits are aimed at reinforcing medical facilities’ state of readiness across the country.
Mdutywa joined the South African National Defence Force in 2005 after completing his medical degree, immediately beginning training with the South African Special Forces. The following year he qualified as a paratrooper, becoming the first black South African doctor to do so, and qualified as a Special Forces operator later that year.
With the rank of Colonel, in 2017 he assumed command of 7 Medical Battalion Group, the elite operational unit of the South African Military Health Service. The Group is the specialist Airborne Medical Unit of the South African Military Health Service. The Battalion’s main task is to render medical support to the South African Special and Airborne Forces. Having 7 Medical Battalion Group operational expertise is an added advantage to his position, Mdutywa said.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mdutywa commanded the multidisciplinary team responsible for the repatriation of South African citizens who had been stranded in Wuhan, China, which was then the epicentre of the pandemic.