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Fast-food CEO and execs sacrifice pay to help workers

Hungry Lion employees will have access to private medical teleconsults

Hungry Lion CEO Adrian Basson is doing what he can to ensure workers are paid while off work, but his goodwill doesn't stop there.

Hungry Lion logo
Hungry Lion logo

Voluntary salary sacrifices and an innovative new healthcare service will ensure that all staff of a local fast food outlet will have access to private doctors during the coronavirus pandemic and possibly beyond. 

Some 2,900 staff from 142 Hungry Lion outlets around the country are sitting at home because the fast food outlet has been closed during the lockdown. It was not regarded as an essential service and the relaxed lockdown regulations only allow for fast food to be delivered – a service the chain’s typical customers can ill-afford. 

Hungry Lion CEO Adrian Basson is doing what he can to ensure workers are paid while off work – taking business loans and applying for unemployment benefits - but he was concerned that staff would have to use government facilities if they got ill during Covid-19 pandemic. 

The company had already contracted with National Health Care to provide just over 260 head office staff and regional managers with full access to general practitioners (GPs) and acute medication as well as some basic x-rays and blood tests. These staff had the option to belong to a medical scheme hospital plan as well if they wanted private hospital cover. 

Basson asked National Health Care executive chairman Reinder Nauta to come up with an affordable plan to extend access to private GPs to all Hungry Lion’s staff. 

The Health Professions Council of South Africa’s decision to lift its ban on doctors and other practitioners consulting via phone or video calls made this possible. 

National Health Care’s new service MediClub Connect starts with employees making contact through WhatsApp. They are asked some basic questions about their health and depending on their answers they are directed to a nurse or doctor who will call them, Nauta says. 

The teleconsult will determine whether the employee needs to go and see a doctor or not and medicine and basic tests can be prescribed.

National Health Care administers a network of more than 3,000 doctors and has contracts with most pharmacies in the country, Nauta says.

The maximum cost of this service – including consultations and prescribed medicines - is R95 per employee a month. Employers pay only a fixed fee to National Health Care to cover its administration and the balance up to the R95 is paid depending on the actual use of healthcare services by employees. 

Basson and the directors of Hungry Lion agreed to pay for the service for all staff by not taking a salary or directors’ fees for the rest of the year. Basson also asked all head office and regional managers take voluntary pay cuts to pay for the benefit. 

The company has also decided to use any profit made for the next six months to offer relief to store staff.

Basson hopes that the company will be in a financial position to continue funding the healthcare benefit for all staff beyond the next three to four months, but says this will depend on when the business reopens and the sales it makes thereafter.

Nauta says he hopes that the MediClub plan will be something employers who will struggle to continue to pay medical scheme subsidies for their staff will consider as a cheaper alternative. 

National Health Care, a subsidiary of African Rainbow Capital, is accredited as an administrator and managed care entity with the Council for Medical Schemes. 

It provides primary health care services to some 5,000 employees as occupational healthcare and some 40,000 medical scheme members who also enjoy private hospital cover.