25 March 2019


SANDF stabilizes services at Mahikeng Provincial Hospital

by: Obakeng Maje and Ngwako Motsieng   date: 26 April 2018

Health services have been provided without any interruptions at Mahikeng Provincial Hospital since the arrival of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Military Health Services last Saturday. 
They were deployed after health professionals that were committed to serving communities were intimidated and patients’ wellbeing threatened by some unknown elements after violent protests broke out in Mahikeng last week. 
Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, visited Mahikeng Provincial Hospital on Monday and expressed satisfaction that things were looking up. 
“As you are aware because of the political problems existing in this province, with the subsequence closure of some clinics and the depot that supplies the whole province with medicine, we have agreed with the Minister of Defence to send the SANDF Health Services to come and help with health services, especially at the hospitals and the depot.
“They have done well and the situation is normalizing there. Unfortunately I cannot say the health situation has normalized. For example, the clinic in Unit 9 in Mmabatho assists close to 7000 patients per month. The community members are also afraid to come to the clinic because they are threatened,” Motsoaledi said.
With the protests having spread to Taung and affecting Taung District Hospital, the Minister said government leaders would “sit down and see if we could deploy more SANDF medical team there”.
He reiterated that healthcare workers were being threatened when they go to work.
“The situation is more complex, but I have met with NEHAWU leadership and they denied that they prohibiting nurses and doctors to go to work. We have rescued more than five newly born babies from a certain hospital after the protesters forced the nurses and doctors to abandon them. We do not want innocent people to suffer because of political battles. The security company at the depot was part of the disruption and they were removed,” he said.
Motsoaledi said the Department of Defence has deployed 40 doctors and 40 nurses in Mahikeng. 
The soldiers have secured the depot and also help at the supply services.
“I am grateful for the deployment of SANDF. They’re doing pretty well and 21 babies were born in the past 24 hours. They have taken over the hospital and the depot where medication is,” said the Minister. 
Meanwhile MEC for Health in Bokone Bophirima, Dr Magome Masike, also welcomed the SANDF’s intervention. 

"First, I applaud the commitment by some of our health professionals who have dedicated themselves and take their oath of service to heart to service our people in the midst of the current volatile situation. One such professional is Dr Mothupi at Mahikeng Provincial Hospital,” said MEC Masike

He continued: "The arrival of the SANDF Military Health Services comes at a time of dire need of their services, skills and expertise. We were pushed by the dire need to help our people, to provide healthcare despite the current volatile situation. We know that the military health professionals have been involved in peace support operations in other African countries. Their nurses are required to provide health care to peacekeepers working in foreign countries, often in resource-poor environments. Their experience is much needed now in our province”. 

The availability of essential drugs and medical supplies is also improving in the province’s health facilities following a decision to allow managers to directly source medication from suppliers. This is over and above an earlier decision to request the National Department of Health to assist with direct deliveries to health facilities since the provincial medical depot was not accessible. 

The department also commended the support of the South African Association of Hospitals and Institutional Pharmacists (SAAHIP) who planned to use their network of private hospitals to collect and distribute medical supplies. They have requested a list of critical items and quantities required.  The department’s plan is to collect the items from a private facility per district where the province or district will source the items. 

"The department still believes in mutual and peaceful means to a settlement that will satisfy all parties involved in talks to end the current challenges and labour unrest. Saving lives of our people by providing quality health services remains the objective of the department," said MEC Masike.