Well known public health expert Dr Saadiq Kariem will be awarded the 2014 Jakes Gerwel Award in Public Health for his role in restructuring health services since 1990. The award ceremony will be taking place on Friday 11 July at the School of Public Health at UWC.
Dr Kariem has been working in the public sector for nearly thirty years and has been involved in a number of restructuring initiatives that restructured the health sector. When Dr Kariem got involved, there were 14 different health sectors which had to be restructured into a single focus that improved the health sectors service delivery for all South Africans. This slowly progressed into the various provincial departments.
“Over the years there was the development of policies and legislation, financial and other governance mechanisms to make sure that tax payers were confident that the department of health was using their rands appropriately and delivering services to people,” said Dr Kariem.
In Dr Kariem’s more recent years, he served as the ANC health secretary, served on the Council for Medical Schemes, and held a post as the the COO and CEO of Groote Schuur hospital. He is now the chief director of General Specialist and Emergency Services in the Western Cape Department of Health.
“In the Western Cape, my sense is that we have a very good health system. Yes, we do have challenges. I’m not minimizing and not saying this province doesn’t have challenges. As a department in this province, we are trying very hard to deliver and do our best to remain delivering excellence services to the people,” Dr Kariem told VOC News.
For many years, Dr Kariem has worked on various health plans and legislation and health policies that set the ground work for the next three decades. There was also work done in the area of HIV where there seemed to be a lot of discrimination.
“Even amongst the Muslim community, people just didn’t understand what this thing was, called Aids and HIV. There was fear and a lot of anxiety around what Aids is and what it means. Over the years, we’ve worked hard at removing that discrimination,” Dr Kariem added.
The 2014 award means more to Dr Kariem than just another award.
“The award is less about me and more about the people over the last three years that have worked towards the restructuring health services in this country, that have worked towards removing discrimination and improving health services to people,” said Dr Kariem.
Dr Kariem will deliver a public lecture at the University of the Western Cape on Friday that focuses on the political policies changes and challenges that had to be dealt with in the late 80s.
“It will look specifically, as well, at the HIV issues we dealt with in an area of denialism and discrimination. I will look at more recently at the challenges I faced as a manger working in the health system in this province,” Dr Kariem added.
The Mauerberger Foundation Fund made the Jakes Gerwel Award in Public Health possible as it honours Jakes Gerwel, the former eector and vice chancellor of UWC. VOC (Shanaaz Abrahams)