How PPS is supporting SA’s health-care workers

PPS paid out 4,286 Covid-related claims to the value of R156m between March and December 2020

23 February 2021 - 11:41
We wanted to protect current and future professionals, be they members of PPS or not, says Frans Lombard, PPS head of life broker operations.
We wanted to protect current and future professionals, be they members of PPS or not, says Frans Lombard, PPS head of life broker operations.
Image: Supplied/PPS

How can South Africans ever show their gratitude to the thousands of health-care workers who put their lives on the line to fight the Covid-19 pandemic? By standing together to help fight the pandemic — be it by making donations and taking part in initiatives to support health-care workers, and by keeping a healthy social distance and wearing a mask.

The Professional Provident Society (PPS) decided the best way to support professionals is by helping keep them safe. The insurance broker set aside funds for procuring personal protective equipment (PPE) for the safety of health-care professionals in the public and private sectors.

“This was important for PPS, because a large number of our membership comprises health-care professionals — front-line soldiers in this war, who would be attending to every South African in need of medical attention,” says Frans Lombard, head of life broker operations at PPS.

“This pandemic showed us why we exist: to protect our members and their families and enable them to live the lives they wish to live. This is what our founders had in mind when they began this society 80 years ago, amid a war. Between March and December 2020, PPS paid out 4,286 Covid-related claims to the value of R156m.”

Lombard says that as much as this drive was to protect a core part of its membership, its reach went much further. “We wanted to protect current and future professionals, be they members of PPS or not.”

Consultations with specialists revealed that some academic and public hospitals, medical university faculties, as well as the smaller private practices of health-care professionals such as pharmacists, doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, radiographers, optometrists, psychologists, biokineticists, occupational therapists, dietitians, speech therapists and audiologists, were not being reached by the larger donation initiatives by the government and charitable organisations.

“With this in mind, PPS created a two-pronged strategy to assist these groups,” says Lombard.

First, consignments of PPE packs were distributed to selected academic and public hospitals, namely Rahima Moosa and Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Joburg, Universitas in Bloemfontein, King Edward VIII in Durban, Polokwane Provincial in Polokwane, Kalafong in Pretoria, Groote Schuur and Vanguard in Cape Town, and Livingstone in Port Elizabeth.

With the support of the PPS Foundation, the following universities’ medical faculties received PPE supplies for their final year students working on the front line: University of Cape Town MBChB, University of Stellenbosch MBChB, Walter Sisulu University Mthatha MBChB, University of Pretoria MBChB, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) MBChB, SMU Dentistry, SMU Pharmacy, Wits Pharmacy, Wits Physiotherapy, UKZN Durban MBChB, UKZN Westville Pharmacy, University of Free State (UF) MBChB, and UF School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Donations also included Hazmat suits and supporting PPE items, which were distributed via a network of doctors in the relevant cities and via the SA Society of Anesthesiologists.

Second, PPS put together Covid-19 essential starter packs that could be ordered on its website for distribution to practices around the country, regardless of whether the professionals working there were PPS members.

Lombard says that no initiative of such scale could be achieved without partnering with organisations that had the same values and goals in protecting front-line health-care workers as PPS has. The PPE starter packs were procured from Supra Healthcare, a supplier licensed by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), which topped up the PPS consignment with its own donation. The packs included KN95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, aprons and visors, all of which complied with the quality standards recognised by the department of health.

“Distribution during level 5 of the national lockdown was hugely restricted and became a logistical challenge. Alpha Pharm, a national pharmaceutical wholesaler with a broad network of pharmacies it supplies, enabled us to overcome this issue and get the starter packs to health-care practices. Alpha Pharm availed its distribution channel with a national footprint for free so that health-care professionals could collect their orders at participating pharmacies closest to them.”

Lombard says that these two companies and participating pharmacies showed the power of professionals coming together for the greater good. The campaign reached more than 26,500 practitioners in SA, showing what a great need there was.

 “Our message to our health-care professionals is a heartfelt thank you, and remember, we see you.”

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PPS is a licensed insurer an authorised FSP.

This article was paid for by PPS.

* This article was updated on Februray 25 to reflect the most recent Covid-related-claim payouts by PPS.