Remarks by KZN Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane, on the occasion of welcoming babies born on New year's Day, Port Shepstone Hospital, 01 January 2022


Her Worship, The Mayor of Ugu District Municipality, CLLR Phumlile Mthiyane; Deputy Director-General for District Health Services, Dr Teboho Moji; Acting Director of Ugu District, Ms Siphokazi Mabaso; CEO of Port Shepstone Hospital, Ms Bawinile Ndlovu; Senior Management Present; Officials from Head Officer; Members of the media; Distinguished guests; Ladies and gentlemen

Firstly, let me start by wishing all of you, as well as Departmental staff across the Province, and at all levels, a Happy New Year. Given the tough and unprecedented times that we're in, making it into the New Year is definitely not something to be taken lightly. We trust that you ushered in the New Year peacefully and responsibly, without over-indulging in the festivities, or doing anything that you might grow to regret in future.

NEW YEAR: A CHANCE AT INSTROSPECTION/HEALTH CONSCIOUSNESS With the start of the New Year comes the opportunity to start afresh, conduct an introspection, and not repeat the same mistakes of last year. For us as individuals, it should be the opportunity to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul, by becoming more health-conscious, and behaving in a manner that protects us and our loved ones from acquiring and spreading diseases. It's also a good time for us to start adopting good habits such as undergoing comprehensive health screening and testing, which you can do at our public health facilities, so that we may find out if there are any diseases that are creeping up on us. This ensures that if there are such diseases, then we may take the appropriate action to stop them from developing further, and then ambushing us when we least expect them, or when it's too late to intervene. It's also a good time for us to change and improve our eating habits, and follow a healthier and balanced diet as far as possible. Activities such as taking up regular exercising have a number of benefits, such as weight control, and can help reduce the risk of heart diseases, and also enable the better management of blood sugar and insulin levels. I am, of course, licensed to talk about the benefits of exercising, having walked several kilometres along the Durban beachfront yesterday, where we were encouraging tourists and beach-goers to get vaccinated, because quite frankly, we still have a lot of work to do in that regard; until we achieve population immunity.

PRESSING RESTART; CARING FOR THE PEOPLE WE SERVE Importantly, for us in the public health sector, this is also a time to reflect on who we are, what we stand for, why we are where we are, and why we do what we do? On why we are nurses, doctors, and allied health workers? It's a time for us to go back to respecting and treating each and every healthcare user that's in front of us the way we would like our own parents and family members to be treated. To those behind the counter and on the operating table at our clinics, CHCs and hospitals, our clients are not a nuisance that must be treated with disdain, and spoken to anyhow. They're not just "an irritation" that left home and came to us because they had nothing better to do. They're here because they are not well; and they've come to us because we are all that they have. Bathembele kithina. When you delay the start of your shift at the clinic in the morning; nilibele wukuxoxa izindaba instead of working, or when you all go on lunch break at the same time and leave people waiting, unnecessarily, for hours on end; you're failing our people. When you make our fellow compatriots stand in long queues, in the scorching heat or in the rain, without making better alternative arrangements - because wena you have an air-conditioned office and medical aid, you are letting them down your own brothers and sisters, and stripping them of their own dignity. It is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it. So, let us remember that, being in the health sector is not just a job, but a calling. It is not "work", or a "dead-end job", but a vocation. That is how it must be seen. As something from which we should all derive a deep sense of satisfaction, because we're supposed to save lives and give hope to the hopeless out there. Despite what ever challenges we may be going through, let us not forget that each and every day presents us with an opportunity to make someone's day, and give them a reason to live another day. And that is a very powerful position to be in, which we should all use to the public's advantage. So, as we enter the New Year, let us try and rediscover ourselves, and the reason why we exist, and embrace the people that we are called upon to serve. This need not be a New Year's Resolution that fizzles out after a few days, weeks, or months; but a way of doing things that we carry with ourselves for the duration of our carriers.

REACTION TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE LIFTING OF THE CURFEW We have noted the announcement by the Presidency of several changes to the Adjusted Alert Level 1 COVID-19 regulations. While we fully understand and support this decision, we would like to nevertheless urge our fellow compatriots not to entirely abandon the ethos and spirit of general restraint which underpinned the curfews and other restrictions that we've had. When you're faced with an abnormal situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes very important to adopt a "business unusual" approach and exercise restraint. Ukuzibamba nje, until the situation returns to normal. It really will not hurt to continue observing the 12am curfew, and avoiding large gatherings, even if it is no longer a legal requirement, because the end goal is for us to behave in a way that does not make the ground fertile for the spread of infection. So, while the relaxing of the regulations is good for the economy, let us all remember that the Omicron variant, which is currently the most dominant in the country, is highly infectious. This means that the risk of an increase in the rate of infections is still quite high. In fact, over the past few days, our rate of infections as a Province has been fluctuating, and characterised by an upward trajectory that we've noted, which becomes quite concerning. A quick glance at our new cases since the start of this week, tells you that we can ill-afford to let down our guard. For instance, we've had:

  • 1 459 new cases on Sunday;
  • 1 007 new cases on Monday;
  • 1 990 on Tuesday;
  • 2 522 on Wednesday;
  • 3 461 on Thursday; and
  • 2 935 on Friday, which is yesterday

Furthermore, our Province this week breached the 15 000 mark for the number of lives lost due to COVID-19, and registered a staggering 136 deaths in just five days, which is still way, way too many lives. (This is based on the latest 15 081, which is up from 14 945 that we had on Sunday, 26 December 2021) We therefore support the call that all organisers of public gatherings must ensure that all health protocols are observed at all times; and that we all must get vaccinated, so that our bodies are able to fight the virus, in case we get infected.

BABIES BORN ON NEW YEAR'S DAY We are pleased to announce that, as of 9am today, the Province of KwaZulu-Natal had welcomed 33 New Year babies from healthcare facilities across the Province. This number is made up of 14 boys and 19 girls. This number will, of course, change as the day progresses. The Province's first New Year's baby, was born at Mosvold Hospital, under Umkhanyakude District, shortly after midnight. Interestingly, we have a set of twin girls who were born at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, to a 25 year-old mother, Ms Ziyanda Madikizela. The first twin arrived at 3am, weighing in at 2.05kg; followed by the second one two minutes later, who weighed 2.36kg. Here at Port Shepstone Hospital we've had one New Year baby, girl who was born to a 40 year-old mother from Makhoso area of uMthwalume, weighing in 2, 590kg. Both mother and baby have some health challenges, and are under close medical supervision.

GIRLS AGED UNDER 18 FALLING PREGNANT One again, we have to register our concern that among these mothers is a 15 year-old, two 16 year-olds, a 17 year-old, and an 18 year-old. In the case of the 15 year-old girl, the father is 18 years old. You then begin to realise that the mother was just 14 years old when she conceived, while the boy was 17. So, these are just children, who are nowhere near ready for the responsibilities that come with bringing a child into the world. We therefore can never over-emphasise the risks that our girls are exposed to when they fall pregnant. Not only are they in danger of potentially fatal pregnancy-related ailments, but their prospects of fulfilling their potential as human beings are vastly diminished. We once again call upon parents, guardians, educators and community leaders to have open and frank conversations with their children about the benefits of abstinence and responsible sexual behaviour. We also re-iterate our call for society to expose and help bring to book any man who impregnates a girl aged 16 and below, because that constitutes statutory rape. We also urge law enforcement authorities to adopt a zero-tolerance stance against this scourge that continues to bedevil our society.

CONCLUSION, As we conclude, we would like to draw from the words of wisdom that were once uttered by one of the greatest revolutionaries in history, Cde Che Guevara, who once said, and I quote: "Everyday, you have to fight so that love for humanity can be transformed into concrete deeds, into acts that set an example, that mobilise." So, may you be the change you want to see. Once again, we wish you a Happy New Year filled with good health, happiness, and prosperity. Thank you. ENDS

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