With the roll out of Covid-10 vaccines being a priority for the year ahead, all qualified resources and hands should be on deck to ensure as many people as possible are vaccinated in as short as a time – subject to vaccine availability of course – to achieve the much desired herd-immunity.
To this end, Trucking Wellness, which falls under the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight Industry (NBCRFI), has offered its assistance to the Department of Health in the vaccination roll-out. A letter has been sent by Tertius Wessels, project manager of Trucking Wellness, to the Minister of Health offering its clinics as well as mobile clinics to service the nation – at no cost at all.
“Trucking Wellness would like to offer our assistance in the vaccination roll-out. Firstly we have 21 wellness centres nationally in all nine provinces mostly situated in rural towns and mostly in the Hot Spots e.g. Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape. We also have seven mobiles centres which we can use to roll out vaccinations to the road freight industry employees as well as the communities around the Wellness Centres nationwide,” says Wessels.
“We are not looking at charging for these services and are more than willing to do vaccinations free of charge so as to assist the Department of Health with this momentous undertaking,” he adds.
The foundation for Trucking Wellness was set in the mid-1990s when Trucking Against AIDS was formed as a FleetWatch initiative with the support of then Minister of Transport Mac Maharaj. The programme took on a more structured approach in 1999 when it was taken under the wing of the NBCRFI and officially launched as the Trucking Wellness programme.
“The aim was to create HIV&AIDS and STI awareness among long-distance truck drivers and commercial sex workers as well as the communities around the truck stops. In 2000, the first Trucking Wellness Roadside Wellness Centre was established in Beaufort West and to date, there are now 21 operational Wellness Centres around the country as well as seven mobile clinics,” says Wessels.
Aimed at truck drivers and women at risk, these centres operate mostly after hours and at night. The centres originally offered HIV&AIDS awareness and STI treatment and later on the services were expanded to provide education, primary healthcare, food supplements, condom distribution, voluntary HIV testing as well as referral to treatment service providers.
“All these existing services are offered free of charge to drivers, sex workers and the surrounding communities at truck stops in a confidential setting and at convenient times. The centres are staffed by registered professional nurses and trainers,” says Wessels.
In the past 20 years since 1999, the project has given awareness education and training to 880 302 people in the sector. More than 522 771 clients have been treated at the wellness centres of which approximately 25 767 were specifically treated for STIs. In addition, 25 767 391 million condoms and educational material have been distributed.
When Covid-19 reached our shores last year, Trucking Wellness offered its mobile clinics to the Department of Health to help escalate the Covid-19 test rollouts. The accent throughout the world then was on testing and given that the mobile units were parked off under Level 5 of the lockdown – although the clinics were still operating as essential services – these units were offered to help in the national testing campaign. The offer was not taken up.
The accent is now on the vaccine roll-out and we urge the Department of Health to take this offer seriously and to incorporate it into the national rollout plans.
The letter was emailed to the Department of Health on February 4, 2021 and at the time of writing (February16th), no response had yet been received. We are not going to let up on this one. It is too important to be ignored. Every bit of help will count in getting us to that all important point of herd immunity.
As a matter of interest, Trucking Wellness’ clinic and mobile clinic staff fall under Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout plans as they are frontline health workers.