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Exhausted Healthcare Workers At PE Field Hospital Rewarded For Their Dedication

  • 5 min read

As South Africans begin their holidays and complain about beach bans, spare a thought for hospital staff 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.

“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 of even for a take away, 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 that 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 thestaff who make this hospital a place where patients can be cared for and feel safe: from the security guards at the gate, to the care givers 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.”

Should anyone wish to support the healthcare workers at this facility, please contact Nicola Marais on C 078 800 5947 /

About the Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital in Port Elizabeth

This temporary 1485 bed field hospital is providing treatment to between around 250 patients daily. It was established in Port Elizabeth in collaboration with Volkswagen SA and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German government aid agency. Two hundred staff members are manning the facility per shift including nurses, doctors, security staff, porters and cleaners. 

This facility is critical to alleviating the pressure on provincial hospitals. The Dora Nginza and Livingston hospitals in Port Elizabeth are extremely stretched. The Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area has a population of 1.2-million with a large proportion of public sector patients. The field hospital is a lifeline for those that contract Covid-19 and need hospitalisation. 

The field hospital currently offers beds for assessment, a holding area for patients who deteriorate and need high care, high dependency care beds with oxygen and low dependency care beds without oxygen. 

Right to Care is supporting the Eastern Cape Department of Health in running this hospital. It has provided 154 youth workers to assist the staff in the hospital as well as an eight-person team who are mentoring staff.  The youth workers were trained by St John’s Ambulance Brigade to assist the nursing staff in the field hospital and can utilise their qualification after Covid-19 to render care at homes in the community.