Sterling work by SA Military Health Service in North West

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SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) professionals have, in just over a month, brought Mafikeng Provincial Hospital back to full administrative and operational status, brought more than a thousand new-borns safely into the world as well as bringing a faulty dialysis machine back into service and are providing a full range of medical services.

The repair and re-activation of the dialysis unit at the major hospital in North West enabled essential kidney treatment for 980 patients to be restarted.

This was one of many tasks performed by a SAMHS deployment after the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was requested to provide assistance to a provincial health service that had all but ceased to function due to industrial and other unrest in the province, Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Senior Staff Officer, Operational Communications at SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division, said.

The deployment is under the command of Joint Operations North West Joint Tactical Headquarters, led by Colonel Charles Rogers, and initially had a personnel strength of 90. As its nears the end of the deployment period there are now 83 personnel working at the hospital and two major medicine depots as well as a company from 10 South African Infantry providing security. The deployment is set to end on 30 June and at the time of publication there was no indication it would be extended.
“The hospital has 392 beds and at times military health personnel were helping more than 400 patients a day,” Paxton said, adding overall the deployment until last week saw 22 317 patients through the system from registration and admission and, if needed, into either emergency or ward care. The number of casualties treated and assisted in the hospital’s emergency care centre totalled 4 523.

On the pharmaceutical side, military pharmacists and assistants dispensed 24 356 items of medication, ranging from packets of tablets and bottles of medicine through to specialist items for specific chronic illnesses and diseases.
“This was because the two pharmaceutical depots in Mafikeng were the only working medicine dispensing outlets in the province. In a number of instances, military vehicles were used to get medicine to clinics in other parts of the province,” Paxton said, adding SAMHS personnel were roped in as ambulance drivers because provincial health drivers were not at work.



Another intervention saw a deployment from the SA Army Engineer Formation operating night soil trucks 24 hours a day in the Lichtenburg, Coligny, Boikhutso region of North West. The call for military aid was made because sewage treatment works in this part of the province are not working due to theft of pumps, pump parts and electric cabling.
“Raw sewage is running through many streets in the area and the Sappers are doing their best to eliminate the flow of untreated sewage using the night soil vehicles; the non-availability of sewage works to treat the raw waste means it has to a dumped in open veld but it is being moved away from areas of human habitation,” he said.