Top notch health services for World Cup

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pretoria - With two days to go to the kick-off of the first World Cup on African soil, the Health Ministry has put in place extra measures to ensure that local and international fans alike receive the best medical care during the month-long tournament, writes Gabi Khumalo.

Since 2006, planning for the much anticipated tournament began. This included the establishment of the coordinating units by provinces in 2007. The 2010 Health Task Team, led by the department of health, under the leadership of the late Deputy Health Minister, Molefi Sefularo, was also established and comprised of the South African Military Health Services (SAMHS), the private health sector, non-profit organisations and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) Medical Services Unit.

Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said R2 billion has been spent to ensure the seamless rendering of health services during the tournament. A National Health Operations Centre has also been established to ensure the seamless flow of information between stadiums, fan parks, public viewing areas and ports of entry into South Africa. The SAMHS helped establish the Centre to monitor and manage all health and medical incidents during the tournament.

"This centre will receive daily incident reports from provinces and assess the trends in order to ensure appropriate interventions at all times, The centre will also monitor and support provinces in managing any possible outbreaks of diseases. We have established live linkages to ensure real time communication with provincial health operations centres," said Dr Motsoaledi.

He said that beyond the tournament, this centre will be used by the department of health to manage disease outbreaks anywhere in the country and facilitate easy communication with affected provinces, adding that after visiting some provinces to assess the level of readiness, they are ready to respond to any eventualities that may occur.

"We shall continue to confront complex challenges in the health sector with the limited resources at our disposal and this centre will allow us to become more efficient in gathering information and responding timeously and more effectively.

"The South African healthcare system will never be same after the World Cup and we shall build upon this to improve it for the better as outlined in our Strategic Plan," he said.

South African public health infrastructure has been significantly upgraded through the revitalization of hospitals, procurement of health technology/equipment, procurement of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) vehicles and equipment, EMS Communication systems, recruitment, training of staff and strengthening of services in all major ports of entry.

Dr Motsoaledi thanked the Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu in particular the surgeon general and his team for supporting the department's planning process for the tournament and the Organising Committee's Medical Services unit, for ensuring that all requirements are met.

"The World Health Organisation has provided us with many specialists to assist our preparations, this indeed affirms our ability to work cooperatively as government departments and integrate our resources to ensure optimal utilization of capacity that exists in the country," Dr Motsoaledi said.