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A large number of these healthcare workers only receive a basic stipend, but they are dedicated to their jobs, whether they are assisting patients or cleaning.


Port Elizabeth, South Africa (21 December 2020) – As South Africans begin their holidays and complain about beach bans, spare a thought for healthcare workers who are having to work through December and January wearing layers of hot protective gear, as South Africa’s second COVID-19 wave hits.

“Keeping our exhausted healthcare workers motivated is a real challenge,” says disaster medicine consultant for NGO Right to Care, Theo Ligthelm. 

Right to Care is a non-profit organisation that supports and delivers prevention, care and treatment services for HIV and TB. Through technical assistance, Right to Care supports the private sector, the Department of Health and the Department of Correctional Services. In addition, through direct service delivery, Right to Care treats patients for HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Right to Care is supporting the Department of Health with its COVID-19 response providing technical assistance including coordination, dedicated disaster medicine, enhanced surveillance, case identification and contact tracing, enhancing laboratory capacity for testing, case management and communication.

“We wanted to reward them in some way, and we approached some of South Africa’s top quick-service restaurants to help us provide a meal for those who are working at the field hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay – the largest hospital in the Eastern Cape with 1 485 beds. The staff are working under extreme stress in what was previously Volkswagen SA’s factory. A large number of these are youth workers receiving only a basic stipend, but they are dedicated to their jobs, whether they are assisting patients or cleaning. 

Ligthelm continues, “We were absolutely delighted to tell the staff that between Debonairs Pizza and Wimpy, each staff member will be given a R100 voucher every month for the next three months as a token of appreciation for their hard work.” 

These 2 400 gratitude meal vouchers valued at R240 000 can be redeemed by staff at nine Debonairs Pizza outlets and 17 Wimpy outlets in the surrounding areas.

Rirhandzu Manganye, brand manager of Debonairs Pizza explains their rationale, “Many staff who are working in hospitals have contracted the disease or lost family members due to Covid-19. We were informed that several staff have resigned due to the workload and stress, which has increased pressure on the remaining staff. Urgent motivation is needed to acknowledge those on the frontline for their care. We know the happiness that people experience eating a meal like ours, and we wanted to contribute in this way.” 

Jacques Cronje, the marketing executive of Wimpy says, “We understand that there’s a shortage of nursing and medical workers to provide care to very sick patients, which is very stressful. At the field hospital, staff are working in a structure that was never designed to be a hospital with some of their patients passing away – a situation that must be unimaginably difficult. We are calling on other South African businesses to recognise healthcare workers in some way if possible. We honour the selfless act of these healthcare workers and welcome them into our restaurants to sit and have a well-deserved break or even for a takeaway, as we have all the safety measures in place.” 

One of the caregivers said, “It is very hard to work a 12-hour shift with sick patients in a very warm building with a mask and protective clothing. Being able to collect a meal from a restaurant on the way home makes me feel appreciated. Thank you for thinking about us.” 

A nurse at the hospital remarked that she is so grateful that the restaurants also thought about her. “It makes me feel valued and positive to provide patient care, although it is hard work.” 

A patient reported that he was taken to the field hospital by ambulance.

“There were so many ambulances arriving it resembled a taxi rank. The carers took me to the bathroom in a wheelchair with oxygen. They assisted me so that I am one of the many who was able to walk out. The angels working at the field hospital deserve the praise and accolades.” 

Says Ligthelm, “The building is merely a shell, the most important component is the staff who make this hospital a place where patients can be cared for and feel safe: from the security guards at the gate to the caregivers at the bedside, the doctors treating the patients, the nursing staff, the helpers handling linen, cleaners in the ablution blocks, the workers removing the medical waste, admin and support staff, and so many more.” 

Sources: Right to Care 
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