In the media
Listed healthcare group to focus on vaccine & nurses' needs as possible third wave approaches24 May 2021
- JSE-listed AfroCentric Group has used its pull in the healthcare value chain to import 10,000 medical grade masks for DENOSA, handed over at an event today
- Group has received permission to operate multiple vaccination sites around South Africa, and gave media a first-hand view of their Roodepoort site today
Johannesburg, 24 May 2021 — With a third wave of South Africa's pandemic suspected to be on the way (or already here, in some cases), SA's diversified majority black-owned health group AfroCentric, has turned its attention to preparations for a potential increase in infections, while also playing its part in vaccinations.
To this end, AfroCentric has used its substantial health offering– which includes a footprint in almost every area of the healthcare industry – to import 10,000 medical-grade masks for nursing members of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA).
Not only is the group – which owns Medscheme, one of SA's largest medical scheme administrators, and the administrators of large schemes such as Bonitas, Fedhealth, POLMED, the SABC and Nedgroup Medical Aid – assisting with the most time-sensitive vaccine rollout in South Africa's history, it is also concerned about the plight of nurses and other frontline workers who are likely to be at the forefront of any future fightback against a third wave of infections.
Lack of PPE for nurses very concerning
"The lack of PPE has been a monumental challenge for nurses, something we've keenly seen during the first two waves of Covid-19. International Nurses Day was on 12 May, a day where the world shone a spotlight on perhaps the most important healthcare workers – our nurses.
"Yet, now that their day has passed, people might tend to move to the next "hero of the day' but our nurses are still in the thick of it and deserve our continued attention, especially as we look to expand our Covid-19 vaccine rollout," explained Ahmed Banderker, CEO of AfroCentric Group.
Banderker strongly feels that nurses require more attention than they're currently receiving. "When we are at war, we cannot simply forget about our soldiers on the frontline. Covid-19 is a battle, and our nurses are going to need our support beyond the pandemic if we ever want to reach our dream of establishing a new order of accessible healthcare in South Africa."
AfroCentric to run multiple vaccination sites, with nurses key to their success
During the course of last week, several AfroCentric locations received permission to operate Covid-19 vaccination sites around the country, with the first opening at Roodepoort, Johannesburg, early last week and administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to healthcare workers and South Africans over the age of 60.
Showing media and DENOSA representatives around the Roodepoort site, Banderker commented, "The government is seeking to finish phase 1 of its vaccine rollout for healthcare workers, aiming to vaccinate any frontline healthcare worker who haven't already been vaccinated, and has started phase 2, which targets those over 60. These vaccination sites are staffed mainly by nurses and nurse aids, without whom a vaccination strategy as large as what South Africa is undertaking could not even be considered."
Q&A with those at the frontline
In a candid discussion after handing over the much-needed PPE to DENOSA, and providing a personal tour of the Roodepoort vaccination site, Banderker asked DENOSA President Simon Hlungwani a few questions, to delve deeper into nurses' experiences during Covid-19.
BANDERKER: What new challenges are nurses facing?
HLUNGWANI: The importance of occupational health and safety in the workplace has become even more important during Covid-19 times, which talks to hygiene, protective clothing and proper ventilation of healthcare facilities, as these directly affect the wellbeing of healthcare workers. As a result, infection control has been a serious issue for nurses to grapple with.
The quality of PPE, which was confirmed by both SIU and UCT study to be of poor standard, is an important issue too – which makes AfroCentric's donation of 10,000 masks very welcome. Nurses are also struggling financially, and, as an extra cushion, healthcare workers have been calling for at least a Covid-19 risk allowance.
BANDERKER: How many nurses have you lost since the pandemic began?
HLUNGWANI: It has been difficult to get this data, but as of mid-April 2021, the country has experienced an infection rate of 55,000 healthcare workers, and 802 of these lives were ultimately lost. The majority of these are nurses.
BANDERKER: How has DENOSA managed to help the members deal with mental wellness?
HLUNGWANI: DENOSA has been calling for the provision of psychological support and employee wellness programmes for nurses in the workplace, given the work overload, and high rate of infection among healthcare workers. This has been a challenge to achieve as government (where majority nurses work for) has unfortunately neglected this important area.
BANDERKER: How have the nurses been dealing with the strenuous working hours?
HLUNGWANI: It has been difficult for them to deal with the long working hours, and the shortage of staff has had to do with this. It has become worse in instances many nurses got infected and had to be quarantined for 14 days (later reduced to 10 days). The number of healthcare workers employed on a contract basis to work on Covid-19 units was quite minimal.
BANDERKER: Besides PPE, what other help does DENOSA need?
HLUNGWANI: Employee wellness programmes and psychological support are the top of the list because these are the pushing factors for many nurses (many have expressed their intention to resign just out of stress and anxiety). Augmentation of staff is also equally critical because it will alleviate the work overload.