More than a hundred uniformed healthcare practitioners are daily applying their various specialised disciplines in the troubled North West, secure in knowing their own safety is ensured by the presence of armed soldiers providing escort and protection services.
The SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) deployment started more than a month ago, on 20 April in terms of Operation Prosper, which makes provision for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to provide assistance to other government departments.
The deployment’s mandate is to support the North West provincial Department of Health at Mafikeng provincial hospital and the Bophelong Psychiatric Hospital. It is also tasked with assisting in the distribution of medical equipment and supplies from the Mmabatho medical depot to healthcare facilities across the province.
“A sub-unit from 10 SA Infantry Battalion provides escort and protection services for the deployment,” said Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, SANDF spokesman, adding the situation on the ground had stabilised since the arrival of the military.
“There is now a better safety and security situation for not only military healthcare personnel but also for resident healthcare practitioners. This is due to patrols and the use of both roving and static guards. Another indicator of the improving security situation saw local emergency medical services able to responds to nine calls on 15 May, the first time this had happened since the strike started.”
He said military personnel were still actively involved in the distribution of pharmaceutical stock to 29 provincial clinics. “There are a number of other clinics not operational due to strike action.”
The SAMHS presence in North West has seen military medical personnel open their hearts and purses.
“SAMHS personnel observed there were no nappies in the maternity ward at Mafikeng Hospital as well as a shortage of and, in some cases, no supply at all of essential infant and baby products. Voluntary contributions made by SANDF members helped alleviate this problem,” Mgobozi said.
SAMHS healthcare practitioner, Major (Dr) ZJ Badenhorst, used some of his time off to give junior doctors at the provincial hospital a lecture on the management of diabetes and diabetic keto-acidosis.
All military personnel deployed in North West to provide assistance, support and expertise as well as those proving protection services are accommodated in the Bophelong psychiatric hospital nurses’ home. Logistics, in the form of vehicle fuel and maintenance, is provided by Joint Tactical headquarters, North West.