Military health team excels in Mahikeng
More than 2000 babies were delivered in four months with the help of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at Mahikeng Provincial Hospital in North West.
Yesterday, the team of 83 health professionals, including 13 doctors, left as the strike by National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) members ended.
The team was called in by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to assist at the hospital where people were dying due to the Nehawu strike.
Team leader Colonel Piet Paxton said they were delighted that besides helping to deliver a lot of healthy babies, they had also recorded less deaths since they took over in April.
"I cannot say why or how we managed to reduce the number of patients who die at that hospital but the statistics revealed that we saved lives since we arrived," he said.
The statistics will be formally released today.
He said working at the hospital was a new experience. "We attended to many old people and the neonatals. We are happy we could assist where help was needed."
The strike was suspended when an inter-ministerial committee made an undertaking that the issues of health workers would be resolved.
Nehawu provincial secretary Patrick Makhafane said soldiers coming in could have been avoided. "That is a serious weakness of government because they waited for workers to rebel instead of making sure that issues are resolved when they were raised."
He said using soldiers was a total waste of state resources, noting that part of the union's demands was about abuse of financial resources.
"They waited for a crisis situation to bring [in] soldiers. Yes, they are now gone but government must know that workers are not on sleeping tablets; we are still waiting for our demands to be met."
Health MEC Magome Masike thanked the military health team. "The SANDF came in when we needed them the most. Within a day of their arrival, they put services back to normality, delivering more than 20 babies within 24 hours and ensuring distribution of medication. We thank them for their intervention and expertise."
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