This September, South Africa will focus on several pressing healthcare issues as we observe ‘Eye Care Awareness’, ‘Oral Health’, ‘Heart Awareness’ and ‘National Month of Deaf People’.
“This is an important month,” says Vusani Malie, CEO, SIOC-CDT. “It brings with it an enormous opportunity for communities to pay attention to the importance of eye health and the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness, the importance of oral care and dental routines, get information about cardiovascular disease in South Africa and allow for increased awareness of issues affecting our deaf citizens.”
SIOC-CDT – established in 2006 by Sishen Iron Ore Company (SIOC) (Pty) Ltd to invest in the uplifting of the communities in which the mining company operates in the Northern Cape and Limpopo – has as one of its ongoing primary objectives, the facilitation of quality healthcare services to members of its beneficiary communities – in partnership with the Department of Health (DoH). This dedication and commitment to the health and wellness of its communities saw the initial launch of the Re a Fola mobile clinic (rendering primary healthcare services) in the Tstansabane Municipality in 2018. In October 2020, the mobile clinic services were extended to include the John Taolo Gaetsewe (JTG) District.
“There was, and still is, a growing need for accessible and affordable healthcare facilities in the SIOC-CDT beneficiary communities Tsantsabane sub-district, John Taolo Gaetsewe district (JTG) and Thabazimbi areas,” continues Malie. “Our goal – to bring healthcare services to our rural community members who are not able to access the facilities and support the DoH with extra professionals who are not available in the rural clinics.”
Initially scheduled to run until March 2021, a recent extension and second phase of this project sees Re a Fola mobile clinics continuing to deliver quality healthcare services until at least June 2024. With a focus on dental, optometry, audiology and primary healthcare, there is also access to an onsite professional nurse, optometrist, oral hygienist, audiologist, medical doctor and dentist (appointed by SIOC-CDT).
An overview of available services includes: Optometry: Provision of eye health and visual acuity assessments, treatment for minor ailments, diagnosis of refractive errors, corrective prescription determination and the prescription and issuing of spectacles in addition to hospital referrals for complex cases. In addition, the very comprehensive eye care project has seen no fewer than 246 cataract surgeries take place since March 2021.
- Oral Healthcare: These services include oral health education and assessment, screening for oral disease, polishing, scaling, fissure sealants and more.
- Audiology: Hearing assessments and the prescription of audio devices together with referral to a local audiology department for further treatment where necessary.
- Primary Healthcare: This includes general health assessment, developmental milestone measurements, weight and height measurements, vaccination programmes with the support of the DoH in both provinces and the treatment of minor ailments with referral to hospital in the case of more serious ailments. Whilst there is no specific project for heart disease, patients with heart problems can be detected from primary healthcare services and then referred to hospital for further diagnosis, treatment and management. The services provided also include pap smears and HCT testing, HIV/AIDS tests, immunisations, family planning, ante natal care visits, deworming and Covid-19 screenings.
Since the commencement of the Re a Fola initiative, as at end July 2021, 11,092 members of its beneficiary communities have received access to the above-mentioned services that has also seen 1,192 spectacles prescribed and issued. The stats are below for 2018 and 2019:
- 2018 (2,248): Dental (837), eye screening (642), pap smears (398), HCT testing (371)
- 2019 (2,065): Dental (704), eye screening (625), pap smears (398), HCT testing (338)
“Due to a combination of geographic and socio-economic factors, many of our community members would ordinarily either not have access to basic essential healthcare services, or, wait exceptionally long periods of time,” says Malie. “With the physical health and wellness of a community directly linked to its sustainability and growth, SIOC-CDT remains committed to facilitating and providing quality healthcare to those who need it most.”
SIOC Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT) was established in 2006 by Sishen Iron Ore Company (SIOC) (Pty) Ltd to invest in the uplifting of the communities in which the mining company operates in the Northern Cape and Limpopo. We invest significantly in community development projects aimed at ensuring sustainability beyond mining operations.
SIOC-CDT has substantiated its stated intention of “defining ourselves through actions, not our words” by investing over R1 billion in socio-economic and community development projects in its beneficiary communities; Gamagara, Tsantsabane, Ga-Segonyana and Joe Morolong in the Northern Cape, as well as Thabazimbi in Limpopo.