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Apr 16
HST's HIT team footprint across South Africa

​By: Magrieta Liebenberg (Project Manager: Health Systems Strengthening)

The Health System Trust's Health Information Technology (HIT) team, managed by Health Systems Strengthening (HSS) Programme Manager Rakshika Bhana and HSS Project Manager Marieta Liebenberg, celebrates its sixth year of service provision to the National Department of Health (NDoH).

Since June 2015, the HIT team has been supporting roll-out of health information systems in public health facilities with specific reference to the Health Patient Registration System (HPRS) across South Africa. Having been seconded to the National Health Insurance Information Systems (NHI-IS) Programme Office led by Milani Wolmarans and Pierre Fabe, these colleagues continue to fly the Health Systems Trust (HST) flag at great heights.

Starting with 13 members, the HIT team rendered support for implementation of RxSolutions in various provinces. RxSolutions is an electronic pharmacy management system designed to prevent drug stock-outs, minimise expired stock, and dispense medication to patients. HST's implementers not only installed and configured RxSolutions at public health facilities, they also built partnerships with District Pharmacists, District Information Officers and facility staff, and assisted with establishing databases for the different levels of care, checking data quality and ensuring accurate data entry.

The team now has a complement of 43 personnel, representing HST in eight provinces and 46 districts. These capable and committed technicians ensure quick turnaround on a range of sub-projects at all levels of the health system for continued assistance to the NDoH to implement, maintain and support health information systems. Focusing on implementation of the Health Patient Registration System (HPRS), they attend to facilities' service tickets and numerous ad hoc maintenance requirements, as well as train and mentor staff on health information processes and systems.

"Our staff have been resilient in responding to changes on demand and understanding clients' frustration when systems are failing, because we are committed to reaching our deadlines," observes Marieta. "I believe that the success of the group depends on the success of each individual member, so team support is vital."

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The HIT team took strength from a team-building moment during their meeting at the Hotel Midrand in September 2020 when they took on the Jerusalema Dance Challenge.

The onset of COVID-19 has necessitated the full development and implementation of tool-sets by Braam Steenkamp, who is the HIT team's Technical Manager and a full-time employee of HST and seconded to NDoH, to assist with COVID-19-related processes and reporting at hospitals and clinics. The team is providing second-level support and where required, supports the use of the Electronic Vaccine Distribution System (EVDS) at hospitals.

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The HIT team successfully prepared this vaccination site at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Parktown, Gauteng.

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The first vaccination at Abraham Esau District Hospital in Calvinia, Northern Cape.

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Having set up systems for COVID-19 vaccination points and observing the jabs in action, team member Philani Shange noted that doctors are also scared of needles!

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EVDS self-registration at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal. 

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Vaccination room at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. 

Although the work of the HIT team is highly technical, the essence of this project is the group of people implementing vital technology to serve a whole population. As Dr Neil Malan from the Phoenix Trial Centre in Gqeberha commented recently, the HIT technicians take professional pride in their work.

The HIT team's history of success in this regard constitutes an indispensable resource for the NDoH that is standing the test of time.

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