Private preparation = public protection

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South Africa’s success in stemming the growth of new infections has bought us valuable time to prepare for an uptick in Covid-19 cases, and one of the most valuable ways to spend that crucial time is in the preparation of essential supplies for public use. 

Around the country and around the world, the private sector has stepped up to the plate to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. Fashion houses are producing face masks in their factories and hand sanitiser instead of fragrances. Locally, SAB is producing hand sanitiser to donate to public health facilities. Zoleka Lisa, vice-president of corporate affairs at SAB, said in a statement that the company is uniquely positioned to help: “We have access to alcohol and an extensive fleet and route network. This enables us to deliver the finished product to the most remote parts of South Africa.”

Studio MAL and SHOUT SA are raising funds to donate medical masks to healthcare workers. They’ve raised R600 000 so far to purchase masks from SMD Technologies
Studio MAL and SHOUT SA are raising funds to donate medical masks to healthcare workers. They’ve raised R600 000 so far to purchase masks from SMD Technologies

Small businesses are also playing their part. “Our clients are doctors, and three from different hospitals around the country reached out to us expressing a need,” says Inge Wulff, founder of Know Scrubs, a producer of premium custom scrubs. The calls kept coming: most medical professionals aside from surgical staff called to the frontlines are required to wear full scrubs rather than just their usual scrub tops. “The fact that our supply chain came on board early on validated my belief in people and the ability to rise when needed,” says Wulff. 

Orders are placed on a first-come, first-serve basis with the most conveniently located suppliers for the hospitals that require stock. In two weeks, the business has received more than their annual order average, quickly surpassing their goal of 1 000 scrubs for lockdown. Know Scrubs has been able to provide scrubs at cost price to medical professionals around the country, and supplies scrubs at a discount to a rural hospital in the Eastern Cape. The goal is to provide free scrubs to those in need, and Wulff hopes to make this a reality with the help of further funding.

Paediatrician Dr Sanelisiwe Balfour wears her Know Scrubs protective gear. The company has adjusted its business model to support healthcare workers with the necessary gear for frontline medical work during the Covid-19 crisis
Paediatrician Dr Sanelisiwe Balfour wears her Know Scrubs protective gear. The company has adjusted its business model to support healthcare workers with the necessary gear for frontline medical work during the Covid-19 crisis

Independent design-for-good studio MAL is usually focused on designing and building libraries for under-resourced schools, but is now raising funds to donate medical masks to healthcare workers. Together with SHOUT SA, they’ve raised R600 000 so far to purchase masks from SMD Technologies — a leading personal and commercial electronics brand developer that’s tapped into its network of suppliers across the globe, using the company’s quality control and buying experience to source accredited surgical and N95 masks at cost price for the campaign. 

“What’s really encouraging is that the bulk of the donations have come from ordinary South Africans,” says Emma Strydom, MAL designer in chief. “However, the need is much greater than this, and we are calling on corporate South Africa to support our initiative and, in so doing, support our health heroes on the frontline. Cars.co.za has come in to rev up the campaign with a massive R250 000.”

Medical aids will cover policyholders for tests and for those who contract Covid-19

While it’s the function of medical aids to ensure that policyholders are prepared for anything, an unprecedented pandemic has unsurprisingly left many concerned about whether they’ll be covered in a worst case scenario. In South Africa, the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) regulates medical aid schemes and their practices — and has made it clear that medical aid clients who test positive for the Coronavirus will be covered.

Testing times

Medical aid providers such as Discovery Health, Fedhealth, Momentum Health, Profmed and the Government Employees Medical Scheme have communicated to their members that they are covered for tests to diagnose Covid-19. Those who test negative for the virus have their tests covered by their medical aid savings. For those who test positive for the virus, full medical aid coverage will come into effect for the test as well as subsequent treatment, including consultations with medical professionals, supportive treatment and necessary medication. 

Does this depend on my policy? 

The answer from most medical aid providers is a reassuring “no”. Covid-19 coverage is not dependent on your choice of plan or benefits; all members are covered. 

How else can my medical aid help? 

In addition to keeping their clients well-informed about the prevention, symptoms and diagnosis of Covid-19, medical aid schemes are encouraging safer behaviour for accessing “ordinary” medicine, making it easier to claim via telephonic consultations and encouraging members to postpone elective surgeries in order to practice social distancing, particularly with regard to medical facilities. 

For those in financial distress as a result of Covid-19, some medical aid schemes are allowing contributions to come from policy savings. Policyholders should visit their medical aid provider’s website to find out about reduced cover options and payment alternatives. 

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