Covid-19 intervention: Military medics may take a while to come to SA’s rescue
The planned intervention of military personnel, as announced by the acting health minister, still has to be ratified
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Gauteng is a Covid-19 war zone – and now government wants to deploy military medics to the frontline of the pandemic fight. But the deployment may take longer than expected.
Yesterday’s announcement by acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane that SA National Defence Force medics were to be deployed to Gauteng health facilities – easing the burden on healthcare workers – could take longer than promised.
Giving an update during a media briefing on government’s rollout plan, Kubayi-Ngubane said she engaged with Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who agreed to deploy SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) personnel to the provincial health facilities.
Concerned about the spike in Covid-19 cases in Gauteng, Kubayi-Ngubane said members of SAMHS were destined for various parts of the province.
“We have engaged the minister of defence, requesting additional capacity from the military health unit for the province. I called on Thursday afternoon and the response was swift.
“This will be a relief and ease the burden of healthcare practitioners, because you do need human capital. They [soldiers] will also assist in mass testing, community screening and contact tracing,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.
Asked about the military intervention, SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi said the turnaround time for the deployment of soldiers to assist in public health facilities was “a long process and not done overnight”.
“While she may have spoken to the defence minister, any SANDF deployment requires a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa for approval, as well as parliamentary endorsement.
“There should also be a budget to be approved – meaning this will take much longer,” explained Mgobozi.
With South Africa reeling from 1.7 million cases – now in the throes of the third wave of the pandemic – Gauteng accounted for 436 487 cases by yesterday, becoming the hardest-hit province.
Kubayi-Ngubane, who made an impassioned plea for people to adhere to Covid-19 health protocols, said the soaring rate of the pandemic in Gauteng was an indication of “a rapid spread of the disease in our community” and the virus transmission “outstripping the ability to detect”.
“We are appealing to Gauteng residents and those in other provinces to respond by saving the lives of many South Africans because health practitioners are starting to come under pressure.
“Gauteng is an areas we are very concerned about,” she said.
“We have surpassed the numbers seen in the first and second wave – very worrying.”
She said her department, the Gauteng government and the Joburg municipality were working on reopening the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital after a fire.
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