SA health services are ready for World Cup, says minister

MEDICAL preparations for the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup are in full swing.

MEDICAL preparations for the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup are in full swing.

The Department of Health announced yesterday that it would ensure that there is a comprehensive health and medical response on a 24-hour basis for the duration of the tournament.

This includes emergency medical and hospital services, port and environmental health, communicable diseases control health promotion, forensic medical services, clinical medico-legal and pathology.

Deputy Minister of Health Molefi Sefularo said: "It is our responsibility as the Department of Health to ensure that our visitors during the World Cup find our health services adequate and responsive to their needs.

"We have put systems in place to mitigate the risks of injuries, including those that might arise during mass gatherings, as well as prevent and treat diseases, working together with private hospitals and healthcare providers," he said.

Sefularo, together with the LOC's head of medical services Victor Ramathesele, have been conducting inspection visits to stadiums and host cities to establish and test the level of readiness of health services. This included an inspection of clinical and emergency medical services. Following the visits, the deputy minister is certain that the health services are ready for the soccer spectacle.

Meanwhile, Netcare Travel Clinics have warned South Africans not to be complacent about swine flu ahead of the World Cup as it still remains a health threat.

Dr Pete Vincent, of the Netcare Travel Clinics, said: "The dangers of swine flu or the H1N1 virus, which has already claimed more than 14700 lives around the world, should not be underestimated.

"The H1N1 virus could well make a big return to South Africa during our next flu season. We will have a lot of people visiting the country over the period of the World Cup. Therefore, the conditions for a rapid spread of the virus will be good," Vincent said.

The Department of Health has planned an extensive swine flu vaccination drive of about a million people next month before the soccer showpiece's kick-off in June. Measles and polio will also be part of the programme as the country recently experienced a measles outbreak.