– Danie Keet. The first group of 10 beneficiaries completing the HWSETA-accredited Health and Frail Care Programme at Bergzicht Training returned to the NGO’s campus this week to continue their studies. Bergzicht Training will also be training additional beneficiaries to work as carers and alleviate the pressure on the health and frail care sector. Photo: Adrian Bezuidenhout.

As the number of COVID-19 infected South Africans move towards the 150,000 mark and with the Western Cape identified as one of the provinces with the most infections to date, Bergzicht Training, an NGO dedicated to the skills development of unemployed, unskilled and semi-skilled individuals is ramping up efforts to train more essential health and frail care workers to assist with health care demands placed on the system by the pandemic.

According to Bergzicht Training CEO, Renske Minnaar, staff had already returned to campus and are continuously prepping and sanitising Bergzicht Training’s offices in Stellenbosch for groups of 10 students being allowed to return to the campus every two weeks since 1 June. The non-profit organisation offers accredited skills development training in food and beverage service assistance, and health and frail care; as well as in childcare.

“With the increase in the demand for essential health care workers like carers to assist with home-based care of the aged and frail, and with similar care needed at institutions offering such services, Bergzicht Training heeded the call to do our part to combat this pandemic on the health care and the employment front. By training beneficiaries with skills that are urgently required by the market, we are helping on both fronts,” says Minnaar.

Many of the NGOs’ health and frail care graduates are already providing care to vulnerable South Africans like the elderly. One of those graduates is Muriel Josias, who looks after a couple in their 80s.

“A carer plays a huge role in the lives of the persons they care for, because you work so closely with your clients. You see each other every day and you love and give your clients care like they are your own parents,” says Josias.

Josias travels to the couple’s home in Idas Valley, Stellenbosch, each day and has taken extra precautions to keep the couple safe and ensure she does not become infected.

“I use a mask and sanitise all the time to keep safe from the COVID-19 virus and also avoid travelling with public transport. The family I work for has provided me with a driver to keep us all safe.”

“While we are gearing up to respond to the need out there, we are also ensuring that we can do it in a safe manner,” adds Minnaar.

“This means restarting our training in a staggered fashion and observing and abiding by all the protocols and requirements laid out by the various authorities. Our students will be screened daily, social distancing will be strictly observed, hand sanitiser will be available in every class and in the common areas, and personal protective equipment will be provided for everyone.”

Except beneficiaries who are already enrolled for the HWSETA-accredited health and frail care programme at Bergzicht Training, the organisation will now also start to actively recruit more beneficiaries who are interested in the health and frail care field, with three groups still to be trained in 2020.

“We added another two training groups to our annual training programme this year, because of the demand for health and frail care staff,” adds Adrian Bezuidenhout, training manager at Bergzicht Training.

The programme is fully funded, with beneficiaries only expected to pay a nominal fee of R65 for the entry-level iPOWER (Self-Empowering) foundation programme, which has to be completed before a beneficiary can enrol for the health and frail care programme. Costs for the latter programme are R160 for registration and R300 for the carer’s uniform.

“This pandemic is going to be with us for a long time and health and frail care workers are essential in the fight against the virus, not only to take care of the aged and frail and ensure their safety as the virus spreads, but also to act as companions in instances where families are not nearby to be with aged or frail family members,” says Bezuidenhout.

According to Bezuidenhout, Bergzicht Training is currently looking for candidates who are 30 years and older to be trained to work as carers at organisations and in homes.

“This is an opportunity for anyone who has ever been interested in working as a carer in the health and frail care sector, but have been unable to do so due to financial or other personal circumstances to apply to Bergzicht Training to complete our accredited course and start working in the health and frail care sector,” he added.

If you are interested in registering for the HWSETA-accredited Health and Frail Care Programme, you can connect with Bergzicht Training at reception@bergzicht.org.za or on 021 883 3525.

  This article has been updated to verify Covid-19 numbers.