Khilona Radia knows just how hard front line workers have had to work over the past few months during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“We witness it every day. They face insurmountable odds to provide care for those affected by Covid-19,” said Radia.
“We can see the pain and exhaustion etched in their eyes above the masks, not just from the long hours but also from the grief of those who lose their lives. It is a battleground.”
With medical staff battling, Radia, a businesswoman, medical researcher, and developer, and her colleagues, felt the need to recognise and reward the herculean efforts of the front line healthcare and medical staff in the face of Covid-19.
So Radia and two of her colleagues, Nisaar Pangarker and Dr Zameer Brey, decided to launch the Hospital Heroes movement, which aims to raise funds to buy refreshment for medical staff at hospitals around the country.
The campaign will initially focus on the greater Cape metropole, then nationally, in order to lift the spirits of doctors, nurses and support staff as they toil through the long and lonely hours of caring for those compromised by Covid-19.
They have partnered with aid organisation Gift of the Givers to handle donations, and the logistics of purchasing the goodies and distributing them.
Radia, Pangarker, and Dr Brey, had each independently conducted separate support initiatives over Christmas and New Year, delivering foodstuff (treats).
Pangarker, a mutual friend, recognised the potential for greater impact if they joined forces.
Radia says she is delighted by the launch of the much needed campaign.
“Hospital Heroes is a movement that seeks to encourage people in South Africa to acknowledge the hard work and dedication our front line workers, in this case health staff, are doing each and every day, and to show them some gratitude through the simple gesture of providing them with a little ‘lekker goed’ that can remind them that we care for them, as they care for those who are ill,” said Radia.
The movement also wants to motivate others to come together and support our healthcare workers.
“Medical practitioners, healthcare workers and their support staff face insurmountable odds,” says Radia.
“Many of their colleagues have lost their own lives in the process. The cycle of care is relentless. The exhaustion, sadness and quiet desperation is utterly undefinable. Yet, their dedication to the hippocratic oath continues with distinction and character.”
Organisers have already been approached by doctors and healthcare workers who have nominated other colleagues in practices around the country – public and private – to be uplifted by the simple appreciation of their efforts.
“With the kind support of the media, we are hoping to spread the word to individuals, communities and corporate South Africa too,” said Radia.
“When we started, we didn’t really know what the reaction and response would be, but we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support – this also means that we are re-looking at creating a sustainable longer-term programme.
“We have been approached by corporates and we are encouraging them to start adopting a hospital and engaging their teams by preparing packs or matching staff donations.”
The first delivery took place last week Friday, at New Somerset Hospital in Cape Town, and the second delivery took place at Brackengate Field Hospital, in Kuils River on Tuesday.
Radia says showing appreciation and offering help is the least that South Africans can do for the front line workers who are sacrificing their lives for the good of others.
“Until you witness the situation with your own eyes, it is difficult to comprehend the true scale of the battle our healthcare workers are facing,” says Radia.
“It is relentless. Long never-ending hours, a constant stream of new patients, tough decisions to make that do not become any easier the more of them there are.
“Separation from their families, the constant spectre of being the next victim to succumb to a faceless illness that is so random in how it presents and the grief of losing patients, friends, family and colleagues and more often than not, and not even the time to stop and have a cup of something.”
“Many of our healthcare workers live far away from their workplaces and when they do go home, it can take hours to get there.
“In addition to facing their days challenges in the hospital, they still have to take care of their families, and be the loving wife or husband, mother or father, sister or brother.
“Often having to cook, clean and be part of their children’s education (if they have kids). We have all personally heard these stories from countless people we have interacted with. This gesture affirms them and helps uplift their spirits knowing that the nation cares for them.”
She says the main objective of the movement is to provide some much needed cheer and respite across the country.
“The movement has rapidly spread and evolved since officially launching this week and has the ability, it would seem, to spread some much-needed cheer and respite across the land, as it feels as good to give as it is to receive.
“Ultimately, though, we would like it to remain prominent and front of mind for everyone, to realise the enormous efforts and sacrifices real people are making to put South Africa’s health back together again.
“If we all stick to the rules and are mindful of the implications of spreading the disease, the sooner we will be able to quell the pandemic and the sooner our Hospital Heroes can recover, return to their families and work under more normalised conditions.”
Donations can be made directly to www.giftofthegivers.org and clicking Make a Difference (reference HospitalHeroes).