Community partnerships key to Old Mutual's rapid response to Cape’s Covid-19 threat
Soon after the Covid-19 outbreak emerged as a health risk in the Western Cape, Old Mutual’s long-standing support of hospitals and the Department of Health moved into gear, and aid from the institution began flowing to where it was most needed.
So says Savarion Arendse, Chairperson of Old Mutual’s Western Cape Provincial Management Board, emphasising that existing collaboration and partnerships played an essential role in the institution’s quick response to the urgent needs that came to the fore after the pandemic surfaced.
“A special allocation of funds was made to enable Old Mutual to aid in meeting the challenge presented by Covid-19 in the Cape. The two most significant public sectors in the Western Cape are health and education, and we have always helped them.
“The board met even before the lockdown began to discuss our response to the emergency. We then contacted the province’s six largest hospitals to see how we could assist. They all said that personal protective equipment (PPE) would be the most welcome. We then made the appropriate contributions.”
The approach to the assistance followed the Old Mutual’s board model that donations should be "need-driven" during the Covid-19 crisis. In keeping with this outlook, the board also responded when the South African Police Service (SAPS) requested backing. Members of the Flying Squad, the rapid response arm of the SAPS, were then also allocated the PPE equipment they needed to protect their officers.
Soon after, another call for help was received.
“The ‘Wellness Officer’ of the Unicity’s Disaster Management Unit requested aid for their members operating on the frontlines of the Covid-19 battle within communities. We responded with supplies of masks and gloves. We also funded the ‘snack packs’ that enabled these officers to eat while they worked in the field-often away from areas where food was available," said Arendse.
“The support received by the services crucial to the management of the pandemic all took place within three weeks of the first call being made. As each request was approved, it took the board about a week to have the required materials in place with the people concerned,” says Arendse.
“Our response took place early in the crisis, and we were pleased by the responses we received to our interventions. At one major hospital, the PPE arrived before other sources could supply the necessary items, meaning that medical professionals could treat patients without the fear of themselves contracting the virus.”
“It is unfortunate that all worthy requests for help could not be met. It is for this reason that we adopted a needs-driven approach to the allocation of our finances. This enabled us to place equipment where we believed its use would be the most effective and where most people would benefit."
Arendse add: “Old Mutual has been serving the people of South Africa for 175 years. As committed corporate citizens, we are proud of our record of community involvement. We have always supported programmes created to improve the lives of South Africans and will continue to do so especially in times when threats like the Covid-19 arise and threaten our nation."