South African Medical Association
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Dear Colleagues

In his valedictory speech at the WMA’s annual General Assembly Dr. David Barbe declared: “There are many physicians around the world who do not feel appreciated or supported for the risks they have taken or the sacrifices they have made in caring for patients with COVID. Many are demoralized. Many feel their governments, and, in some cases, their hospitals have let them down. Some feel taken for granted or even taken advantage of.”

As the pandemic continues to plague the world, we know that many of our members are overwhelmed and dealing with anxiety, fear and even resilience fatigue. Please know that help is at hand. SAMA is collaborating with PPS and the Reality wellness group to offer telephonic support and counselling. Contact the reality Wellness Group on: 080 11 22 550 or eppenage@realitywellness.co.za (Please provide your SAMA member number) SAMA and PPS obtain and share no data with Reality Wellness. The only information shared is the number of people who use Reality Wellness’s services

We are all aware of the economic impact the country experienced during COVID, and of the personal finance blow many doctors faced or are facing. In a recently hosted webinar on earning during the pandemic, especially in the context of the National Credit Act, we had a presentation from Mr Howard Gabriels, the Credit Ombud. This event was recorded and is available on the following link: https://www.samedical.org/about-us/podcast

You will recall the Compensation Fund publishing controversial new regulations that would have undermined the Parliamentary process of the COID Amendment Bill that took place earlier this year. The consequences of this could have had catastrophic prejudicial consequences for medical service and vulnerable injured workers. The parliamentary process removed a section which would prohibit the medical industry working through third party administrators to receive payments due to them for claims submitted for medical care of workers injured on duty. Despite this removal, the Compensation Fund, on 10 September, published regulations which effectively enforced the prohibition.

Consequently, SAMA, IWAG, as well as the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA), called for the immediate withdrawal of the controversial new regulations. We have been informed that the Office of the State Attorney has sent a letter indicating that the regulations published on 10 September will be withdrawn and that the notice will be gazetted within 30 days. I am including the link to an interesting radio programme where this was discussed https://omny.fm/shows/safm-sunrise-1/mediated-conversation-unpacking-the-compensation-1

In my previous communication I announced the special helpline establishment to provide access and assistance to Palliative Care information and access. For anyone whom required assistance relating to quality of care, supportive care or home care, it will be available as from the 1st of November 2021 between 09:00 and 16:00 on Tel: 012 940-2966.

In conclusion, the FDA is planning to allow Americans to receive a different Covid-19 vaccine as a booster from the one they initially received. SAMA believes that healthcare workers who received the initial J&J vaccine as part of the Sissonke trail, should also be offered the choice to receive the Pfizer vaccine booster if they choose. I would value your thoughts in this regard.

Until next time, stay safe.

Yours in solidarity,

Dr. Angelique Coetzee
SAMA: Chairperson

 
 

Vaccine Booster Shots for Healthcare Workers

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says it is necessary that vaccine booster shots for healthcare workers – including doctors – are made available immediately. The Association says research indicates that the immunity and efficacy of single dose vaccination, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is unknown and that a single J&J vaccination only provides good immunity up to, at most, eight months.
 
“It’s critical, in our view, that booster shots be administered to all doctors and healthcare workers as a matter of routine, and as early as is needed. These are people who are literally on the frontline of a war, and who have made enormous sacrifices to assist others. It’s our duty, and the duty of authorities, to ensure these brave men and women receive the best possible protection they can, which is possible through authorizing booster shots,” says Dr Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of SAMA.

Dr Coetzee says the high effectiveness of reducing hospitalisations among those who have received second doses and booster shots will ensure the continued health of healthcare workers, and reduce transmissions in health facilities. In addition, she says, booster shots will become more necessary as new variants of COVID-19 arise.

“Resources, both human and operational, are already stretched and the battles against COVID – especially during the first three waves – have exacted a further heavy toll. Doctors are emotionally strained and we are still receiving information on burnout among many of our colleagues. Booster doses will go a long way to send a message to doctors that they are being supported, and that their efforts are being recognised,” notes Dr Coetzee.

In light of the fact that vaccines are in good supply, and that providing booster shots will not dent supply to those who need their first shots, Dr Coetzee says it’s now time to start prioritising the roll-out of boosters to all healthcare workers. She says that government should give healthcare workers the individual right to choose between the second dose of J&J or Pfizer.
 
“We still need to focus on getting as many South Africans vaccinated as possible and we will support those efforts. But vaccine supply is not constrained and some of those which are available must be given to the people who face this pandemic head-on every day without diverting anything from the public. We believe the scientific evidence strongly favours this approach,” notes Dr Coetzee.

Dr Coetzee says the administration of booster doses to healthcare workers must not detract from intensive efforts to ensure all healthcare workers who have not yet received their initial doses get these done as a matter of urgency."

                                                                        Breast Cancer Awareness

Month October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, observed annually in October to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says breast cancer prevention and early detection must enjoy a higher priority than ever before and that all efforts to increase education must be made.

“Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among South African women and affects women of all ages. Breast cancer awareness is critical in helping women to understand and detect the early signs of this disease. Actions such as wearing a Pink Ribbon during the month help promote that awareness. Education on self-examination of one’s breasts raises the importance of checking for signs of breast cancer on a regular basis,” says Dr Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of SAMA.

Although breast cancer primarily affects women, it can also affect men whose lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833 according to the latest American Cancer Society statistics. Dr Coetzee says early identification is one of the most critical steps in achieving the best outcomes. This is especially important as the country is still grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “ Delayed detection and treatment services for breast cancer have been significantly interrupted. Higher priority should be given to breast cancer education and awareness in all communities” says Dr Coetzee.

SAMA offers the following facts about breast cancer to the public for them to be better informed on this disease:

Early identification of the disease can result in efficient therapy and a positive prognosis. When breast cancer is found early, around 90% of patients live for many years after diagnosis.

Monthly self-breast examination from the age of 20 and regular mammograms after the age of 40 is key to early detection.

Presenting for treatment sooner rather than later may result in more effective treatment, resulting in less pain and suffering and a lower risk of death.

Although there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of breast cancer. These include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Moderate exercise (at least three times a week, for 30 minutes each time)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight (cutting out junk food, sugar, and high-fat foods)
  • Know your genetic status especially if there is family history of breast or ovarian cancer in the family

“Some important strides have been made by medical professionals, non-government organisations, healthcare organisations and in the private and public sectors and we salute and support these efforts. We cannot allow COVID-19 to halt our momentum, we must continue to raise awareness about breast cancer whenever we can so every person has the right information on how to deal with it,” concludes Dr Coetzee.

 
 
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Dear Branch Chairperson,

You will no doubt be aware that since my last communication there has been a significant development within SAMA management; I officially write to you today as the association’s new CEO. It’s a role I am elated to assume. I want to thank the Board of Directors for the trust they have placed in me to lead this wonderful organisation. I will work tirelessly to ensure SAMA remains the benchmark of medical organisations not only in South Africa but globally.

Founded in 1927 as the Medical Association of South Africa, SAMA has gone through various iterations in its almost 100-year history. The association has also faced and overcome many challenges. One of the key hallmarks of the association – and, indeed, of great companies – has been its ability to bounce back from adversity. Yes, we may face stormy waters from time to time, and there may be rocks in our path, but as an association, SAMA is resilient and clear minded, much like its staff and its members.

I mention this because although I think we’ve all been through so much the past 18 months we are still here and ready to push on. That’s the eternal spirit of SAMA, and as one of the custodians of this great organisation I believe it is our collective obligation to ensure it remains long after we have left.

Among these challenges are those stemming from the SAMA/SAMATU matter. These challenges meant SAMA had to adjust its strategic direction to enhance its value proposition to members, a task which is well underway, and which will yield positive results. It also made us refocus our energies towards our core values and which have given rise to a strategy underpinned by the four key pillars which have become our mantra: Grow Membership, Amplify our Brand, Enhance Member Value, and form Strategic Partnerships.

Another challenge, naturally, has been COVID-19. Coronavirus is here for the foreseeable future, and we all need to remain vigilant in our efforts to curb its spread. While national lockdown levels are eased, we can never assume that it has been completely eradicated, and as medical professionals we need to be encouraging our families, friends, colleagues and patients to take every measure possible to protect themselves, including getting vaccinated. I trust you will all join me in these scientifically-based efforts so that we can make headway in dealing effectively with this pernicious virus. I know many of you are also suffering physically, financially and emotionally because of COVID-19 and I want to assure that SAMA will support you in whatever way we can. I don’t just say we should be united; I genuinely want us to practice what we preach.

But we cannot only dwell on the challenges, we must also look to the future.

For an article to be published in the next edition of the Insider magazine I was asked about the future of SAMA, and what my plans for the association are. While I won’t get into as much detail as I did for that article, part of my answer was that I believe SAMA’s main purpose is to serve as a growing advocacy platform that will unite, guide, and support members for the health of the nation.

I also mention in that article that SAMA, in my view, has a massive role to play to be the leading and preferred membership organisation advocating for, and supporting, medical practitioners in the country. This is my vision, and I hope that with your support and dedication, and that of all the hard-working staff within SAMA, we can achieve this goal and be a professional association which is driven by members and which, through influential advocacy and operational excellence, represents the interests of members in all sectors.

Since starting as Acting CEO I made it my mission to ensure communication is enhanced between my office and the branches, and I will continue to do so. In addition to the monthly newsletters, I will, from October, also be issuing a weekly message to all keeping everyone updated on important developments and issues. Communication is key to success, and I want to ensure you are all as informed about important matters as you can be. Please also see this as an opportunity to communicate with me; this should not only be one-way traffic.

Lastly, I want to assure you all of the continued commitment of the staff at Head Office and at the Branches in supporting our members. SAMA is truly an incredible organisation but incredible organisations are built and maintained by people. It’s the people in SAMA who keep our wheels turning, and you are one of them. I want to thank you for your contribution, and your continued dedication to our association.

Until next time, be safe, be vigilant, and stay protected.

Yours,

Dr Vusumuzi Nhlapho
MSc BA MBBCh ACBOM DOccMed
Chief Executive Officer
The South African Medical Association

 
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lt4oCM-kAA0
 
 
 
 
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The South African Medical Association - Postal Address-The South African Medical Association P O Box 74789,Lynnwood Ridge Pretoria 0040, South Africa
Physical address The South African Medical Association, Block F Castle Walk Corporate Park Nossob Street Erasmuskloof Ext3 Pretoria 0181, South Africa www.samedical.org

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