SAMHS in the forefront of military medical care


Outgoing Surgeon General Lieutenant General Veejay Ramlakan (left in picture) points to the achievements of the SA Military Health Service’s (SAMHS) Presidential Health Unit as one of the highlights of his eight year tenure as the country’s number one military medic.

“This unit is probably the busiest unit in SAMHS and is responsible for treating all former presidents. We have also treated more than 30 heads of state in recent years and our Southern African Development Community colleagues make preferential use of our services,” he said at this week’s SAMHS change of command parade.

Among other achievements he singled out was that SAMHS is internationally is “force to be reckoned with”.
“While in most other spheres South Africa looks to the rest of the world for inspiration, countries like India, Brazil, Germany, France and Russia have in recent times come to South Africa to benchmark this thing called a fourth service – the Military Health Service.
“We have continued our involvement and contribution to the International Committee of Military Medicine and the Pan African Congress on Military Medicine. In terms of chemical and biological defence we are on the international forefront of developments with internationally recognised experts,” he said when handing over command to Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe.

On representivity Ramlakan said the wheel had turned dramatically to the extent SAMHS was today the most demographically representative arm of service in the SANDF.
“Currently, broad representivity figures for SAMHS are 82% people of colour and 18% white, while 54% of SAMHS members are female. Representivity has also been achieved in the senior rank group while middle management has been transformed.”

Other achievements he mentioned were a six month stock level of pharmaceuticals at the Military Health Base Depot and a three month level at all sickbays across the country. Alongside these improvements Ramlakan said the old military medical health vehicle fleet has been completely replaced and a revamp of main medical equipment was well on the way.
“Over the past six years, we have witnessed major improvements at all three military hospitals, as well as the Training Formation. 3 Military Hospital is now a new facility and the project at 1 Military Hospital is fast nearing completion. After a tentative start we have also achieved close to a miracle at our basic military training centre in Lephalale, now the most beautiful unit in the SANDF,” he said.

SAMHS also made major contributions in humanitarian assistance during floods and strikes by hospital personnel and the successful hosting by South Africa of FIF Soccer World Cup 2010.
“This event saw the establishment of the National Health Operations Centre (NATHOC), a state-of-the-art facility that is now one of our great legacy assets in terms of medical support for large scale operations.”

Ramlakan said there were still three serious challenges facing the SANDF’s fourth arm of service.

These are an inadequate budget to be able to do its work properly; the “frustrating situation” where SAMHS healthcare practitioners earn the same as their civilian counterparts and the “failure of our colleagues to accept we never stop being doctors and nurses while being soldiers”.