For all the latest news about the coronavirus, click here.

One of the biggest tragedies of this pandemic is that patients who succumb to Covid-19 often don’t have time to say goodbye, and even those who pull through may have to spend days in hospital with no way to contact their loved ones

A call from hospital staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for a solution to help severely ill Covid-19 patients to communicate with loved ones, led to a successful and inspiring project – a collaboration between Reflex Solutions and partners Mustek, Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and ESET – who have installed free secure WiFi at the hospital at no cost to patients or doctors.

Dr. Gloria Teckie, consulting physician at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, reached out to Greg Wilson, CEO of Reflex Solutions, to evaluate a solution that she was trying to put together to allow the terminally ill to communicate with their families during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“On review I realised that the solution wouldn’t fit the requirements and certainly wouldn’t be sustainable. Connectivity and WiFi are core to our commercial offerings and we knew what we had to do,” says Wilson.

Working within the largest hospital in the Southern hemisphere wasn’t going to be a simple installation

“There was a need for large backhaul, fibre reticulation within the hospital grounds, point of entry (POE) switching infrastructure, Cat 6 cabling and mounting access points in the Covid-19 wards.”

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Head of Carriers and Access at Reflex Solutions, Rudolf Beets, confirms that there were challenges. “Ensuring that power is always available to run the system is a still a concern, which we are also looking to solve. We do not want to provide a half-baked solution, especially for a humanitarian issue like this. It has to be a quality service,” explains Beets.

He further says that it was paramount for them to do the installation in a non-intrusive way and not cause any interruptions to the operations of the wards or cause discomfort to any of the patients.

The eager to assist Reflex Solutions team was briefed by SA’s top infections disease specialist regarding safety and didn’t flinch to work in Covid-19 hotbed area.

“We simply could not sit by and do nothing when we heard that Covid-19 severely ill patients and on the brink of passing away are unable to communicate with family and friends during those last moments”

“We simply could not sit by and do nothing when we heard that Covid-19 severely ill patients and on the brink of passing away are unable to communicate with family and friends during those last moments and unable to set things in order before the end. Together with our suppliers we sponsored the solution to address these issues,” says Andrew Dobie, Business Unit Manager: End-User Computing (EUC) at Reflex Solutions.

Due to regulatory restrictions and no communication devices or infrastructure, severely ill Covid-19 patients are dying alone – without family and friends. This is adding an unnecessary emotional burden on already over-extended medical personnel to deal with.

Dr. Teckie says: “Medical personnel at Baragwanath are taking heavy strain having to not only manage the physical aspects of the illness, but also the emotional distress of patients unable to communicate with family during their time in hospital. It is just incredibly humbling that Reflex Solutions decided to help the hospital, showing their selfless desire to assist the medical fraternity and patients in this way”.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital is the third-largest hospital in the world and accommodates 3 000 beds. It currently features five dedicated Covid-19 wards to treat patients with severe and life-threatening symptoms of the disease.

“When we saw the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to provide connectivity to major public health sites in collaboration with Reflex Solutions, we felt compelled to get it done. We are very much aware of how critical connectivity has become as an enabler of essential services for a number of sectors, including, of course, the health sector,” says DFA CEO, Thinus Mulder.

DFA is responsible for providing connectivity to the hospital from the Reflex core network, Reflex Solutions is providing the fibre, cabling, switching, labour, internet bandwidth and two Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs) – one for hospital guests and one for Doctors and medical personnel, which will be used in the treatment of patients.

Digital security provider, ESET, will be providing its pioneering software security product model for hospitals and health systems and licences to the software. ESET Channel Manager, Sean Cocks says: “Our security solution for hospitals and the health system supports their financial and operational needs while promoting innovation and transformation to provide value to patients and healthcare professionals. It is the perfect security solution in a case like this”.

Chris Hani Baragwanath academic hospital is the third-largest hospital in the world and accommodates 3000 beds. It currently features five dedicated Covid-19 wards to treat patients with severe and life-threatening symptoms of the disease

Mustek is sponsoring 10 Mercer Tablets and 30 Huawei access points (APs) to connect patients, allowing them to stay connected with loved ones through video calls and messaging applications. Says Huawei Business Unit Manager at Mustek, Donna Mostert: “This is such an emotional thing and we could not but assist. We did not only want to pay it forward, but bring communications as close as possible to patients and put devices in their hands and give them access to multiple communication channels”.

This joint solution, led by Reflex Solutions, is not simply an answer to the immediate need for connectivity in the medical sphere during Covid-19, but it is also there for future use across the board. “This is not a once-off project for Chris Hani Baragwanath. We have started preparations with Steve Biko academic hospital in Pretoria to roll out the same fully sponsored solution soon. Our aim is to do the same for other healthcare facilities across the country,” concludes Reflex Solutions’ Dobie.