Elements of the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) moved into the government hospital in the North West provincial capital, Mafikeng, in the early hours of Saturday to take over provision of medical and other healthcare facilities.
The deployment, about which the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has not provided meaningful information, is apparently set to continue until “debilitating labour action” by provincial healthcare workers is ended.
According to the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communications, mobilisation of SAMHS elements is “to alleviate the plight of affected citizens of the province who are currently bearing the brunt of this labour action”.
The directorate does not give any information on the specifics of the deployment such as units or personnel numbers sent to the province. defenceWeb has reliably learnt that SAMHS is currently administering the major provincial hospital in Mafikeng and has doctors, pharmacists, medical orderlies, nurseries and emergency medical technicians on site. There is also apparently an infantry company deployed around the hospital to provide protection to SAMHS personnel in the event of violence breaking out again.
The deployment comes in the wake of a wave of political violence in Mafikeng last week which saw President Cyril Ramaphosa cut short his attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London. He was in Mafikeng last Friday.
SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said in a statement: “Health care practitioners from the SANDF moved into the province to ensure affected citizens at the provincial hospital are provided with the critical health care service they need. This is done with the understanding that lives need to be preserved at all costs”.
This is not the first time uniformed medics have assisted when labour action has disrupted the provision of medical services.
In June last year military medical orderlies were deployed to Gauteng hospitals and pathology laboratories to assist with autopsies when provincial healthcare workers downed tools.