Within the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Health Services portfolio, the past year was dominated by the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. This was a time of hardship, pain, suffering and death. Who can erase the images of long lines of people queuing for food; or the patient dying alone in hospital without the loving touch of their closest family; or the family left devastated by the death of multiple family members? COVID-19 has served as a harsh reminder of the deep inequities that exist in our country, and the fragility that this brings. It has also been a reminder of the privilege we have to offer care and compassion in a time of need.
Compassion, care, collaboration, partnership and innovation have been the cornerstone of all that we have done in 2020. We congratulate our partners in the Western Cape Government:Health (WCG:H) and the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) for exemplary, innovative, agile service delivery that has seen our province deal decisively with the challenges presented by this pandemic. I commend our staff at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Faculty of Health Sciences for showing the value of our contributions to these partnerships through our academic leadership and innovation.
The Faculty’s staff have supported National, Provincial and Local government with rapid evidence and guidance for decision-making in many facets of the response. Our contributions ranged from public health, prevention, clinical care, mental health, palliative care, pathology, virology community health and health systems development and so much more. Our colleagues in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine have supported an impressive contact tracing process and further strengthening of WCG:H information systems that made almost real time information available to decision makers and to the general public for them to ignite their own agency for health and wellbeing during this pandemic.
Community rehabilitation workers trained by our Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences have been doing phenomenal work in strengthening self-management and community support at a time that health services have not been accessible to many, particularly those living with disabilities.
The conversion of the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC) into an 862-bed field hospital dubbed the ‘Hospital of Hope’ in record time by our colleagues in Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine and other departments was really an incredible achievement. We look forward to the reflections from that experience and the gems that this will provide for further health systems strengthening. We applaud the NHLS, who rapidly scaled up their efforts despite testing shortages and massive logistical challenges, supported by our team in the Division of Medical Virology, who developed and implemented an extraction free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) approach We celebrate the partnership between NHLS, Groote Schuur Hospital and UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences that described the new SARS-CoV-2 variant (501Y.V2 or B.1.351) in the Western Cape that has largely been responsible for the second wave of infections.
Under the most trying professional and personal circumstances, we celebrate, honour and applaud all our staff who are actively working to ignite agency for an inclusive and just society built on health equity. The prolific writer and human rights activist, Arundhati Roy writes: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” Let us rise to this challenge.
Siyabonga, camagu, re a leboga, baie dankie, thank you!
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