The world has been going through the COVID19 global pandemic for approximately two (2) years now. Now more than ever, health care has become a key priority for all nations, especially developing ones. The tragic aftermath of the COVID-19 virus, as evidenced by the continued countless lives lost, and the consequential increase in orphaned children, declining societal mental health, as well as the degradation of struggling African economies, have not left Botswana unscathed.
As seen with the past world experiences, in the advent of pandemics, governments commonly grapple with a huge healthcare burden that puts an unprecedented strain on their limited resources. Community reach and accessibility of healthcare for disadvantaged and remote communities, especially in the developing world, become prominent during such time, which often magnifies pre-existing developmental shortfalls. It then calls for strong private and public sector partnerships to help carry a nation through.
Debswana Diamond Company, as Botswana's long-standing vehicle for development since its establishment in 1967, was well positioned to support its shareholder Botswana Government in steering the ship through troubled waters during the pandemic. Together with business partners, De Beers Group and DTCB, a major contribution has been made by the group towards the national COVID19 response. Of particular focus in this response is Debswana's long existing mine hospitals, the Jwaneng Mine Hospital and the Orapa Mine Hospital, which were both availed in various ways to support Government efforts in managing the pandemic in the Jwaneng-Mabutsane and Boteti districts.
Between both Jwaneng and Orapa hospitals, Debswana invests over P160m annually in the provision of healthcare services for communities around the mines and beyond, The hospitals serve a combined patient population of over 200,000 every year. It is also worth noting that the mine hospitals are accredited with the not-for-profit Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA), a reputable internationally accredited health standards body.
COVID RESPONSE ROADMAP SINCE 2019
Over and above the recent P25 million contribution in the Group of Companies' donation towards government's vaccine procurement, Debswana has to date spent approximately P30 million through its operations and hospitals to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, bring its total spend towards the COVID response to approximately P50 million. This includes procuring related medical supplies, PPE, testing equipment, converting some of its accommodation facilities into isolation centres, as well as pandemic educational materials and communication platforms. In addition, Debswana's mine hospitals also serve as district referral hospitals in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and have to be adequately prepared at all times.
Other funds and efforts were spent on:
1. Over P14 million toward capacitation of Debswana Operations and hospitals for COVID-19 response through;
- Re-allocation and streamlining of hospital services at both Jwaneng and Orapa towards COVID-19 treatment and patient care.
- Availing funds, facilities, and Company employees to assist the District Health Management Teams.
- Enabling Government to convert some district clinics into COVID-19 treatment centres.
- Re-deployment of mine hospitals' ambulances to support wider healthcare efforts around the communities: Jwaneng (two ambulances) and Orapa (one ambulance).
- Provision of water and sanitisers to the Company's impact communities.
- A P340, 000 cash donation to the Boteti District Development Management Committee (DDMC) to purchase masks, gloves and other medical supplies.
- Provision of porta cabins for a period of six months to a clinic in Jwaneng and another in Mabutsane to house health personnel (eight rooms in Jwaneng and 16 rooms in Mabutsane).
2. Establishing Vaccination Centres at all of Debswana's three operations.
3. A P25 million contribution towards a co-funding initiative with the De Beers Group and DTCB for the procurement of Moderna vaccine by Botswana Government
OTHER GENERAL OUTREACH RESPONSE SERVICES CONDUCTED ON AN ANNUAL BASIS TO BENEFIT COMMUNITIES
- Ambulance service for reported emergencies within 100km radius of our areas of influence (villages surrounding our operations), for chronic disease management, wound dressings and more
- HIV and TB outreach management to villages neighboring our operations. Debswana assists Government with the coordination of the Masa programme.
- Our hospitals serve as referral centers for; maternity services/cases, complicated surgical cases, from ante-natal care, delivery to post-natal care.
- Child welfare clinic and reproductive health services provision for example, contraception.
- Jwaneng hospital also serves as a lead in the maternal mortality mandates for the region and hosts monthly maternal morbidity and mortality meetings where information is shared with district partners towards improved maternal outcomes.
- Vaccination service to communities.
ASSISTANCE TO COMMUNITIES DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Debswana's "Building Forever" mandate, which is part of the Debswana 2024 Strategy, is premised on building livelihoods through enterprise and supplier development support, providing access to education and skills development, involvement in initiatives aimed at achieving health and wellbeing for the host communities in the areas of operation. The following have been rendered on an going basis to communities;
- Inpatient COVID-19 care
- Availability of an Isolation centre in Mmatshumo village in Boteti
- Donations of; food hampers, vehicles for contact tracing, thermometers, pulse oximeters, blankets, masks, sanitizers and more to communities in areas of influence
- Provision of PPE to clinics around Jwaneng-Mabutshane and Boteti districts.
- Regular provision of testing kits, Personal Protective Equipment
- Participation in rapid response teams to facilitate adequate resourcing and training
- Multi-stakeholder COVID-19 meetings involving community leaders to share information, COVID-19 health and psychological advice provision
- Provision of oxygen
- The construction and commission of Letlhakane Maternity Wing in Boteti
- Partnerships with District Health Management Teams (DHMT) in respective regions of operation
- Through Debswana's value of "Show we care" and Social Way principles ; Community Health and Safety Management, employees have carried out initiatives through 'Employee Volunteerism' including; goodwill donations and other in-kind gestures such as mentorship, psycho-social support to communities
ALIGNMENT OF DEBSWANA HOSPITAL SERVICES TO ITS STRATEGIC AMBITIONS
Debswana launched its 2024 strategy, dubbed "One Dream, One Team" in 2020. One of the strategic pillars of the "One Dream One Team" strategy is the Safety, Environment and Communities pillar which seeks to achieve empowered communities. It goes without saying that the long-standing impact of Debswana hospitals has positioned the company well in advance to achieve this noble objective and will contribute towards the early achievement of the strategy's transformational agenda. Already, inroads have been made through the following recently achieved initiatives;
- Driving innovation through digitized services such as digital hospital management system (Medinous), e-screening, contact tracing dashboard
- Jwaneng mine hospital has recently launched an e-pharmacy aimed at aiding decongestion of the pharmacy, linked to the paperless hospital information management system.
- A virtual and e-consult services has been launched which has serviced the community in the past year and a half in Jwaneng
RECENT VACCINATION ROLLOUT
On 04 June 2021 Debswana, together with De Beers and Diamond Trading Company Botswana/DTCB, donated P55 million to support the Botswana COVID-19 Vaccine roll out. On 17 August 2021, Government announced the inclusion of the mining sector as part of the essential services to be mobilised and prioritised in the vaccination programme. As such, Debswana continues to actively participate in the COVID-19 National Deployment & Vaccination Plan (NDVP) which is in line with the phased approach for the delivery of the vaccine. Below are efforts carried out by the company in recent months under this programme;
- Vaccines are availed in phases as per Ministry of Health roll out plans
- Debswana has established vaccination sites at Debswana Corporate Centre (DCC), Orapa and Jwaneng towns
- Vaccines are administered at these sites, for DCC in a phased approach with first priority to employees and business partners, followed by the mining sector and later community referrals by the DHMT and for sites concurrently to employees, business partners and members of the community including outreach.
- For Orapa, as at October 3rd, 16.9% of the target population was fully vaccinated, while 25.7% where partially immune
- Jwaneng mine is targeting a total worker population of 6136 which includes business partners of which at least 79% so far is partially vaccinated (awaiting 2nd doses and fully vaccinated) and ongoing with a target of 100% before year end.
Debswana is confident that with the continued private sector support to Government and ongoing receipt of COVID-19 vaccines in-country, the country will reach the desired national herd immunity.