26 May 2021 | Story André Damons | Photo Sonia Small (Kaleidoscope Studios)
Mr Godfrey Mahlatsi, Acting Head of the Free State Department of Health; Ms Montseng Tsiu, Free State MEC of Health; Ms Sisi Ntombela, Premier of the Free State; and Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, give the thumbs up to the vaccination centre at the Universitas Academic Hospital.

As a public institution, the University of the Free State (UFS) always wants to play a role in society through its expertise, facilities, and assets. It is for this reason that the university is assisting the Free State Department of Health to equip the vaccination centre at the Universitas Academic Hospital to function optimally as one of the primary vaccination sites in Bloemfontein. 

Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, says the university decided to assist the department by providing computers, chairs, tables, and installing network cables at the vaccination centre which opened on Monday May 24 2021. The recovery room where patients are monitored after being vaccinated was also equipped. The university’s School of Nursing is also training its students to help with the vaccination process. 

Prof Petersen, together with Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences; Ms Sisi Ntombela, Premier of the Free State; Ms Montseng Tsiu, MEC of Health; and Mr Godfrey Mahlatsi, Acting Head of the Department of Health, paid a visit to the vaccination centre on Tuesday 25 May 2021. 

UFS part of the broader community 

“The UFS is a public institution and we always ask what our role in society is. We are part of the broader community so we need to play a role through our expertise, our facilities, and assets and see to what extent we can positively impact the community. This is a good example of doing that. COVID-19 is an opportunity for everyone to take hands and address it in a collaborative way.

“The UFS values our partners, and in this particular case, the Department of Health. We believe that if we can work with our partners, the impact would be that much greater. If this facility is full to capacity, we would be able to vaccinate about 3 000 people a day which would never have been achieved if we did not take hands,” says Prof Petersen.
According to him, the UFS will do the same in Qwaqwa by providing the same type of equipment. Prof Petersen also encourages South Africans, especially those over the age of 60, to register to be vaccinated. 

“It is also my role as leader of the institution to encourage people to register and get vaccinated, because if you do get COVID-19 again, the impact will be lighter. This is something that we need to fight and manage.”

People are excited to be vaccinated  
Premier Ntombela says the province is lucky to have the UFS as a partner. “The university has been with us since day one. We are very excited and lucky to partner with them. I think they are doing a wonderful job, not only with their expertise, but also with providing equipment for us to use. I am very happy that everything is going smoothly. Everyone wants to be vaccinated and people are excited.”

According to Dr Nicholas Pearce, Head of Surgery at the UFS – who is also heading the Universitas Hospital COVID-19-Task Team – their aim is to vaccinate between 1 500 and 2 000 people a day. “The UFS School of Nursing is busy training nursing students to assist us with vaccinating people. The university’s contribution is massive. We would not be able to do it without them,” says Dr Pearce. 

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