Supporting SA’s healthcare workers

Epidemic Outbreak. Doctor in protective suit.

How can South Africans ever show their gratitude to the thousands of healthcare workers who put their lives on the line to fight the Covid-19 pandemic?

We can do it by standing together and helping to fight the pandemic – be it by making donations and taking part in initiatives to support healthcare workers, or simply by keeping a healthy social distance and wearing a mask.

Keeping our health workers safe

The Professional Provident Society (PPS) decided that the best way in which to show its support to these professionals, is to help keep them safe.

It is for this reason that PPS decided to set aside funds that could be used to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) for the safety of healthcare professionals in both the public and private sectors.

“This was important for PPS, because a large number of our membership consists of healthcare professionals, and that these are the frontline-soldiers in this war, who would be attending to every South African in need of medical attention during this treacherous time,” says Frans Lombard, Head of Life Broker Operations at PPS.

“If ever there was a question about the purpose of PPS, this pandemic brought us full circle to demonstrating why we exist: to protect our members and their families and enable them to live the lives they wish to live. This is what our founders had in mind when they began this society 80 years ago, amidst a war. Just between March and December 2020, we paid 4 286 Covid-related claims to the value of R156 million,” says Lombard.

He adds that as much as this drive was to protect a core part of its membership, its reach went much further.

Looking to the future

“From the start, we wanted to protect current and future professionals, be they members of PPS or not,” says Lombard.

Consultations with specialists revealed that some academic and public hospitals, medical university faculties, as well as the smaller private practices of healthcare professionals such as pharmacists, doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, radiographers, optometrists, psychologists, biokineticists, occupational therapists, dieticians, speech therapists and audiologists, were not being reached by the larger donation initiatives by government and charitable organisations.

“It was with this in mind, that PPS created a two-pronged strategy to assist these groups,” explains Lombard.

First, consignments of PPE packs were distributed to selected academic and public hospitals, namely Rahima Moosa and Nelson Mandela Children’s in Johannesburg, Universitas in Bloemfontein, King Edward V111 in Durban, Polokwane Provincial in Polokwane, Kalafong in Pretoria, Grootte Schuur and Vanguard in Cape Town and Livingstone in Port Elizabeth.

With the support of the PPS Foundation, the following universities’ medical faculties received PPE supplies for their final-year students working on the front line: University of Cape Town MBChB, University of Stellenbosch MBChB, Walter Sisulu University Mthatha MBChB, University of Pretoria MBChB, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) MBChB, SMU Dentistry, SMU Pharmacy, WITS Pharmacy, WITS Physiotherapy, UKZN Durban MBChB, UKZN Westville Pharmacy, University of Free State (UF) MBChB, and UF School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Donations also included Hazmat suits and supporting PPE items, which were distributed via a network of doctors in the relevant cities and via the South African Society of Anesthesiologists.

Secondly, PPS put together Covid-19 essential starter packs that could be ordered on its website, for distribution to practices around the country, regardless of whether the professionals working there, were members of PPS or not.

Like-minded partners

Lombard says that no initiative of such scale could be achieved without partnering with key organisations that had the same values and goals in protecting front-line healthcare workers as what PPS has. The PPE starter packs were procured from Supra Healthcare, a SAHPRA-licensed supplier that went above and beyond this call by topping up the PPS consignment with its own donation.

The packs included KN-95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, aprons and visors, all of which complied with the quality standards recognised by the Department of Health.

“Distribution during Level 5 of the national lockdown was hugely restricted and became a logistical challenge,” recounts Lombard.

“It was Alpha Pharm, a National Pharmaceutical Wholesaler with a broad network of pharmacies they supply, that enabled us to surmount this issue and get the starter packs to healthcare practices. Alpha Pharm availed their distribution channel with a national footprint, free of charge so that healthcare professionals could collect their orders at participating pharmacies closest to them.”

Lombard says that these two companies and participating pharmacies truly came to the party and showed the power of professionals coming together for the greater good. In total the campaign reached over 26 500 practitioners around the country, showing what a great need there was.

 “Our message to our healthcare professionals is a heartfelt thank you, and remember, we see you,” says Lombard.

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