One of South Africa’s leading healthcare enterprises, Unjani Clinics has received a boost with the acquisition of six ultrasound machines to supplement services offered by their rapidly growing network of women nurse-owned clinics that operate within communities and provide low-cost primary healthcare services to the employed but uninsured.
Unjani CEO Lynda Toussaint says the triple B-EE, sustainable initiative aims to strength health systems in low-income communities throughout South Africa by empowering community nurses to own and operate their own clinics within their respective communities. “Currently, there are 70 Unjani clinics in South Africa providing thousands of mothers and babies in low-income areas access to medical treatment. The ultrasound machines donated by Infiniti Insurance will make a significant difference in an area of our primary function. Some 65 percent of our patients visiting our clinics comprise the reproductive, maternal, prenatal care and family planning, in which the equipment plays a role for around 3000 scans we do each month.
“The nurses underwent two full days intensive training on the Infiniti-supplied equipment. This will be followed by basic obstetrics training so they will understand how to scan the abdominal area and be able to come up with a gestational age as well as pregnancy confirmation.
Patients who attended as volunteer subjects for examination and training cheered the initiative and explained the material significance of having access to ultrasound scans at low-cost as critical to enable continuous and accurate monitoring of their baby’s growth and development in pregnancy.
“Unjani’s strategy is to provide patients with the right care first, thereby preventing and reducing the need for extended medical services at overburdened public health establishments and expensive private entities. At the same time, the model empowers professional nurses through coaching and support to manage and ultimately own their individual clinics within a sustainable structure, as well as creating jobs by employing support staff,” Toussaint points out.
The concept was originally pioneered some five years ago by Dr Iain Barton. It was developed out of the need for the urgent transformation in the healthcare system in South Africa with the country facing the triple affliction of HIV AIDS and TB and a costly curative care-based model versus disease prevention and promotion.
Today the Unjani dynamic formula of combining public and private support has resulted in a highly successful community-based enterprise which has the possibility of resonating throughout the African continent in the primary healthcare sector.
Infiniti Insurance Chief Executive Officer Sharon Paterson says the donation of the ultrasound equipment came as a natural extension of Infiniti’s aim to provide support for education and health in South Africa. “We saw many synergies in making this contribution. Our approach to women empowerment we see as fundamental to the principles of inclusivity and diversity. Unjani Clinics is making a formidable contribution towards empowering women, impacting some of our poorest communities and nursing professionals who are guided towards owning and operating their own businesses to offer the community efficient health solutions and care.
“Affordable Primary Health Care as offered by the Unjani Clinics model fits well into the Infiniti criteria for Corporate Social Investment and in support of Enterprise Development which is a key element in our economic recovery - a national imperative. Providing these ultrasound machines to Unjani clinics will impact the beneficiary clinics and the communities they serve in a meaningful way. The technology gives Unjani patients access to early detection at critical times during pregnancy and at a low, manageable cost,” Paterson says.
In the national context, explains Lynda Toussaint; “More than 80% of our population is dependent on an overburdened public health system and private health care is too expensive for the bulk of the population. The majority of pregnant women cannot afford a scan at these facilities. If they are able to, they sometimes have to wait six months for the results. However, the cost of a scan at a Unjani Clinic is roughly a third of those elsewhere enabling women to have up to three scans during their pregnancy for the same cost.”
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