Automaker to convert PE plant into temporary COVID-19 hospital

06 May 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202019009

Disaster Management
Government & Municipal
Social Development
Automaker to convert PE plant into temporary COVID-19 hospital
(L – R) Dr Thobile Mbengashe, Superintendent-General for the Eastern Cape Department of Health, Thsonono Buyeye, Acting Executive Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Thomas Schaefer, VWSA Chairman and Managing Director, Oscar Mabuyane, Eastern Cape Premier, and Nomkhita Mona, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, signing the partnership agreement.

VOLKSWAGEN Group South Africa (VWSA) has made its Port Elizabeth plant available as a temporary medical facility to assist local and provincial government in providing much-needed care to Covid-19 patients in Nelson Mandela Bay.

According to the company, the plant in Neave, which is currently not in use, will be converted and used as an overflow medical facility. Once fully operational, the facility will be able to accommodate up to 4000 beds for patients diagnosed with COVID-19. This would also include high-acuity patients who require oxygenation.

The planned conversion of the 66 000m² building is the result of collaboration formed between VWSA, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will provide funding of 5.2 million Euros (R107 million) to support the conversion of the plant as well as the procurement of protective gear (PPE) for staff at regional tertiary hospitals, regional Primary Care Clinics and 49 Covid-19 test centres.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH will provide the performance framework to account for the public and private engagement and will foster the cooperation with the private sector to establish a sustainable strategic alliance in Nelson Mandela Bay.

VWSA will contribute R28 million to the project. Additionally, VWSA will provide project management for the conversion of the facility and management of the procurement of the critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The plant will be made available to government until March 2021, with the Department of Health and the NMBM responsible for the management and daily operations of the facility. The business chamber’s role has been to assist in facilitating the project and garnering further support from its membership base.

Following the signing of the agreement between the parties, the facility is to be completed in phases and handed over to government as the need for medical care in the Metro develops. The preparation of the first phase is currently ongoing and will take approximately six to eight weeks to be completed. This process will equip the medical facility to accommodate up to 1 484 patients.

VWSA Chairman and Managing Director Thomas Schaefer said this commitment was the company’s latest move in the fight against the global pandemic. The company has also been working on the manufacture of ventilators, respirators and masks in partnership with other local businesses, and has offered ongoing support to the business chamber and the municipality in their coordinated efforts to bolster medical care in the Metro.

“Solidarity is crucial in a crisis – and COVID-19 is an unprecedented global threat. Through collaboration we will be able to achieve the position of strength we will need to fight the virus.

“VWSA has devoted its time to finding innovative ways in which we can combat the scourge of COVID-19 and prepare the Metro to care for those who are infected. We are highly appreciative of the financial support from the BMZ/GIZ as it will help us to continue to offer support to protect our citizens and our country,” Schaefer said.

Dr Gerd Müller, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, commented: "We will either beat COVID-19 worldwide together or not at all. That is why I support Volkswagen South Africa's plan to turn a currently unused factory into a facility for COVID-19 patients.

“Our contribution forms part of our worldwide Emergency COVID-19 Support Programme. It aims to strengthen and expand health infrastructure, provide emergency aid to stabilise regions in crisis and refugee camps, safeguard jobs and food supply."

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