COVID-19 is a horrible little virus that is causing global havoc. However, it has also served to bring out the best in so many people and companies. Since the lockdown began in South Africa on March 27th, we have seen so many acts of goodwill and deeds of unselfish kindness and contribution that really warms the heart.
There are too many to mention here but to cite just one company as perhaps a representative example for all, I point to Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSA), one of the many companies which stepped up to the plate in contributing to the fight against coronavirus within its community.
As is well known, the production operations at Isuzu’s Nelson Mandela Bay had to be closed at the beginning of the lockdown in line with the regulations. However, looking for ways to contribute to the wider cause of fighting COVID-19, Isuzu immediately volunteered to assist the Ubuntu COVID-19 initiative which was established by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber in support of the doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are serving at the frontline of the crisis.
“We called upon Business Chamber members and the broader business community to support our Ubuntu COVID-19 Fund so that together we can avert a potential humanitarian crisis,” says Dr Andrew Muir, President of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, adding that the business community has placed high priority on supporting efforts which directly contribute towards the planning and readiness of the city if COVID-19 infections reach higher levels.
IMSA, a member of the Business Chamber, volunteered to undertake the task of renovating the Livingstone and Provincial Hospitals to increase capacity to accommodate COVID-19 patients who require screening, testing and hospitalisation. Spearheaded by Angus Clark, IMSA maintenance manager, the team had only eight days in which to complete the renovations due to the need to ensure that the hospitals were ready to receive COVID-19 patients.
Isuzu’s maintenance team, including their contractors, worked around the clock to deliver refurbished medical facilities at the Port Elizabeth Provincial and Livingstone Hospitals. “The rooms required cleaning, painting, fixing of electrical fittings, converting rooms into ablution and shower facilities, additional internal and external plumbing to four floors, replacing toilets and repairing broken beds and trolleys,” says Clark.
The renovations done at Livingstone Hospital has ensured increased capacity of an additional 135 beds for COVID-19 patients as well as additional cleaning facilities, extra gas points and more ablution facilities. An additional isolation facility was created next to each ward allowing medical staff to change and sanitise before entering the ward.
Furthermore, oxygen and vacuum equipment were serviced and additional points were added to increase the provision of oxygen to the extra beds as well as the existing beds. “We also replaced over a hundred broken windows and hung screens and curtains in the wards,” says Clark.
While Livingstone Hospital is the dedicated COVID-19 medical institution for hospitalisation, the old decommissioned casualty building at the Provincial Hospital was refurbished to accommodate 25 beds to serve as a transfer location for COVID-19 patients.
In addition, marquee tents were erected at Dora Nginza Hospital, Livingstone Hospital and Laetitia Bam Clinic in Kwanobuhle near Uitenhage to serve as temporary testing facilities. The tents, which were secured through the Business Chamber’s Ubuntu Covid-19 crisis team, are fully fitted with lighting and electricity as well as tables and chairs. Various businesses came through with donations such as Wifi for the medical staff, soap dispensers and curtains for the newly operational wards.
Denise van Huyssteen, IMSA Corporate Affairs, Business Strategy and Legal Executive and leader of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber Task Teams, says Isuzu’s efforts form part of a larger COVID-19 response strategy.
“During this time of crisis, we strongly believe it is important that together with our partners and stakeholders, we all rally together to do what’s in the best interests of the city and its people as a whole,” she says.
More Isuzu bakkies deployed
IMSA has also now made more bakkies available to assist in containing the spread of COVID-19 infections in the country. This follows the company making its press test fleet available a few weeks ago to the humanitarian relief organisation, Gift of the Givers, to support their COVID-19 intervention initiatives.
This latest gesture of goodwill has seen the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria take delivery of 15 Isuzu D-MAX bakkies which will be used to assist with the transportation of personal protective equipment and medical supplies to support South African community health workers in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This intervention was facilitated by WesBank and supported by FirstRand’s South African Pandemic Intervention and Relief Effort (SPIRE) initiative.
Under normal circumstances, these bakkies would have been used for marketing and promotional purposes. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown period, the bakkies were idle and thus put to good use for the cause.
“We’re pleased these vehicles can be used by the university to undertake its critically important and value adding work. We pride ourselves in providing transport solutions and being a trusted partner in getting a job done and more so, to be a beneficial partner during times of crises and disaster,” says Craig Uren, Isuzu Senior Vice President, Vehicles, Sales, Service and Marketing.
Professor Jannie Hugo, Head of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pretoria, says the partnership with Isuzu for this period will extend their reach and allow mobile versatility to ensure effective intervention across all communities. “For the next few weeks the University will specifically focus on supporting the medical structures and resources in the country,” said Hugo.
The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria has been at the forefront of helping South Africa fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The faculty is currently involved in approximately 30 projects to support COVID-19 efforts.
“We appreciate Isuzu’s contribution towards helping us make a greater impact during this pandemic. It is through these collaborative efforts that we can help and support communities,” says Professor Tiaan de Jager, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria.
Uren said the support given to the University of Pretoria forms part of the company’s strategic social responsibility objectives, which is to provide critical logistics support during crisis situations.
FleetWatch lifts its hats to Isuzu as well as to each and every company and individual that has gone out of their way to help their fellow South Africans in this time of crisis.
What these individual acts also do is serve to highlight just how low-life the other end of the COVID-19 scale is, namely, the reported ANC councillors who have looted food parcels, selling them off and giving them as gifts to their friends and supporters. Community-spirited efforts such as shown by IMSA make us stand tall and proud as a nation. The looting of food parcels meant for the poor makes us vomit.