The fourth arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) which, in addition to providing healthcare services to the air force, army and navy is also active in meeting the constitutionally set outcome of providing “a long and healthy life for all South Africans”.
This saw SAMHS personnel contributing toward improved effectiveness of health services in line with National Department of Health priorities according to the latest Department of Defence (DoD) annual report.
“A paediatric high-risk clinic was established at 2 Military Hospital (Wynberg, Cape Town) consisting of a multi-disciplinary team that surveyed development of eligible paediatric patients from birth until the age of two. The refurbishment of military healthcare facilities at Bethlehem, Saldanha, George and Wingfield was also completed. Clinical technologists and engineers were appointed for the refurbishment project at 1 Military Hospital (Thaba Tshwane).
“The neuropsychology capability was restored at all three military hospitals and a neuropsychology research capability was established at 1 Military Hospital. The first research paper by a dedicated SAMHS researcher, titled “The Neuropsychological Profile of Adults and Older Adults with HIV”, was published in the South African Journal of Psychology,” according to the annual report.
Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe’s charges also ensured healthcare and health support to South African men and women in uniform deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the internal border protection tasking, Operation Corona.
SAMHS was also on hand for real-time health support to force preparation exercises, including SA Navy deep diving ones. Additionally senior SAMHS officers attended planning conferences for Exercise Matumbawe, a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Special Forces exercise in Tanzania. South African ops medics had the responsibility of medical support for the exercise.
SAMHS also met its commitments to other state departments as set out in the National Development Plan.
This saw 32 operational emergency care practitioners and emergency care technicians go to the Gauteng Provincial Department of Health during mortuary labour action in June 2017. SAMHS, according to the DoD annual report, played a leading role in disaster management when Health Centre South Coast in Oudtshoorn provided humanitarian assistance and preserved human life during fires in Knysna. An intermediate healthcare facility was established and a mobile clinic and ambulance were deployed to support to patients suffering from smoke inhalation and burns. An additional facility was established and reinforced to address the increased patient load.
“SAMHS received accolades for its efficient and professional conduct in providing emergency health care to 181 patients during this disaster,” the report states.