On 5 September 2018, a fire broke out at the Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg, killing three firefighters who were struggling to douse the flames.
The building housed government departments including the Gauteng Department of Health. One year on, the Aurum Institute joined Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku to honour the lives of the heroes, and pledge their support to work with the province to end HIV and TB.
Speaking at the commemoration ceremony, Dr Nokwethemba Mtshali, Managing Director at the Aurum Institute urged the MEC of Health to ensure that all health facilities comply with the required standards in order to keep healthcare workers and patients safe.
An excerpt from Dr Mtshali’s speech: “The Aurum Institute is not an organization driven by numbers or targets. It is an organisation that puts people at the centre and at the heart of everything we do. That is why we are here to stand in solidarity with the Gauteng Department of Health and remind you that ‘We are with you.’ We have a duty to honour this tragedy and our fallen friends by continuing with our commitment and vision to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Gauteng. Their tragic deaths must not be in vain. There is another fire raging in our communities that we can all, like firefighters, work tirelessly to extinguish. People living with HIV are still dying unnecessarily of TB. Thousands of people who can get to the fire ladder of antiretroviral medicines are still not on treatment. There are still high numbers on new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, high rates of teenage pregnancy, and high rates of sexual and gender-based violence.
We stand ready to strengthen our longstanding partnership with the Gauteng Department of Health. We at Aurum also pledge to support the MEC of Health and his team, because our collective successes will save lives and ultimately lead to the end of HIV and TB. Together, we can achieve what once seemed impossible and give more people the chance at a longer, brighter future.
Our fallen heroes must never be forgotten. We call on healthcare workers everywhere in the province to work as hard as these brave firefighters to extinguish the fire of HIV and TB once and for all, to strive to be worthy guardians of their memory and of their legacy. You can count on our support. Our commitment must never waver. We will work every day to live up to the standards they set for us.”
The MEC of Health Dr Bandile Masuku, noted that the department should use the commemoration of the fire to reflect on its performance. “It is an opportunity for us to recognize the areas we have not done well and we need to correct ourselves and work in such a way that we are more attentive to detail, not only terms to quality of our infrastructure but it relates to the nurturing of the people we serve as a department,” he added.
Masuku was joined by family members of the three firefighters, Mduduzi Ndlovu, Khathutshello Muedi and Simphiwe Moropana, who lost their lives on that day.