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Giving back by saving lives – meet Standard Bank Top Women Award winner Simphiwe Mamvura

Written by Staff Writer

November 16, 2020

Maponya 911 EMS is a proudly South African emergency medical services provider. A 100% black-owned and black-managed organisation, they strive to maintain the highest standard of business operations, efficient medical assistance and quality customer service.

The company was established in 2005 to meet the need for a dramatic improvement in the quality of emergency medical services delivery and related functions. Simphiwe Mamvura joined the company in 2010 – at the time the company was relatively small with 60 employees and 10 branches. Simphiwe oversaw the company’s growth and expansion plan with a diligent and strong team, which has proved to be the key to success. Under her guidance, Maponya 911 EMS now boasts over 120 employees and 25 branches nationwide.

Congratulations on winning the SB Top Woman in Science Award at this year’s Standard Bank Top Women Awards virtual ceremony. What does winning this award mean to you?

Thank you. It is an absolute honour. I celebrated 10 years in the Emergency Medical Services industry this year and it is an absolute honour to celebrate it with this award. The award is not only a symbol of celebration for me and recognition of my contribution to the EMS industry, but is also a symbol of recognition and celebration for all our hard working and selfless paramedics who serve with the utmost commitment, dedication and excellence every day. It is a symbol of recognition and hard work both for myself and for all our employees, past and present, who have believed in me, believed in our vision and have furthermore, displayed heroic bravery in being on the frontline throughout the fight against Covid19. I believe it is also a symbol of hope for many other young girls and women that through hard work and perseverance our dreams are possible and valid, no matter what the circumstances can be. It is also a celebration and motivation for me to continue to push forward and thrive through all adversities and to continue in the stride for my dreams and goals and to continue to carve and light the way for all women in the industry and those in pursuit of their dreams and career goals.

You have been with Maponya 911 for 10 years – what changes have you seen in the delivery of medical services during this time?

There are three significant changes for me, which is firstly the implementation of the Emergency Medical Service Regulations 2017 regulations which was introduced to regulate both public and private ambulance services, and meant that every single ambulance operator need to apply to the Department of Health for operating licences, unlike previously before. Only services are that are compliant, have been fully assessed and inspected get granted a licence, which has to be reviewed annually. This has definitely had a significant and positive impact in the service delivery of emergency medical services and has had a major improvement in the quality of patient care and some form of level of standardisation and consistency in the industry.

I have also seen a major increase in the number of new ambulance services coming into the industry and assisting to curb the gap in areas which would not necessarily have such close access emergency medical services and reduced response times of service availability.

I have also seen a very welcomed rise of more women entering the market and at the forefront of EMS delivery.

As Managing Director of Maponya 911 what have been your most memorable successes?

It definitely has to be the expansion of Maponya 911 and our growth in the industry throughout the years. We’ve worked very hard to build the reliable and quality brand that we have been able to over the past years. Our greatest strength is our capacity and the quality of service we strive to offer and level of professionalism.  We currently have a fleet of over 58 operational vehicles and a strong national footprint throughout South Africa. We operate in 8 Provinces currently and have plans to further expand.

It has also been a delight this year to see us finally get our first breakthrough in the administration and management of Emergency medical services for a big medical scheme. This is a project we had been working on for over 4 years and we were grateful to finally be afforded an opportunity to venture and diversify our offering into that space.

What have been your major challenges and how did you overcome them?

Being in the medical industry without a medical qualification certainly put me on the back foot in the beginning. I’ve got three degrees in commerce, two in business management and one in law so in terms of the medical and healthcare industry I had to work extra harder to understand the dynamics of the industry, and had to empower myself with more knowledge on the different acts, the ins and outs of the industry and even some medical jargon. One thing I have never struggled with is self-belief and the strength of my capabilities but the best thing that I did for myself when I entered the industry was empowering myself with more knowledge. I just ensured I always try to keep abreast with the latest industry regulations and business industry as a whole.

In terms of Maponya 911, we’re still trying to breakthrough into the mainstream economy, like the corporates and mining organizations but I believe we’ll get there. We’re also trying to breakthrough into Government organizations and SOE’s. We’re yet to get a sustainable opportunity in that environment. Most of our clients are self- sourced and its mostly private clients so there is still a lot of room to grow.  We have been knocking and knocking on doors to get an opportunity in those fields

In your opinion how can we improve medical service delivery to rural areas?

I definitely think the first major improvement needs to be accessibility to ambulance services in those areas, which would improve response times and have a direct impact on the service delivery. When Maponya 911 was founded, our service started predominantly in Soweto and remote and rural areas where there was a serious need for ambulance transportation due to the lack of ambulance services in those areas during those times. Maponya 911 was the first service to operate in Soweto and surrounding areas due to the need. Most of the times patients would use their own private vehicles to hospital, and those that were actually even fortunate to have vehicles. The rest of the community only had Government EMS service to rely on. We noticed the huge gap and need for an ambulance service to assist in those areas and henceforth opened a private emergency service. I would say the biggest challenge in those areas is access to quality emergency services and huge reliance on the already strained Government EMS. Though there is room for improvement, I have seen a lot of ambulance services try to close that gap and operate in the rural areas. We all do our best to play our part.

How has COVID-19 impacted on the services you deliver?

Most of the challenges have been adapting operationally to the changes that have come with COVID-19 and the financial impact on the company. We need to ensure that all paramedics are fully equipped with all necessary PPE. The increased need of PPE and disinfection products caused a sudden increase in our overheads, which ultimately affected our cash flow projects and in turn lost revenue. The industry has been in talks with different clients and medical schemes to adjust tariffs to cater for the cost.  At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also had ongoing delays that many of us were experiencing when you we arrive to handover patients at hospitals. This is due to the new processes in the hospitals. This has significantly improved though. We also saw a decline in the number of patients we were transporting in certain areas. Clients preferred to stay at home rather than go to hospitals, and the lockdown meant that there was less of a need for ambulance transportation.

What exciting plans do you have for 2021?

I would like to see Maponya 911 become the biggest EMS provider in the country and see us expand into other African Countries. I want Maponya 911 to be top of mind when anyone thinks of emergency medical services and in need of an ambulance.

We are also currently in the process of establishing our own 130 bed hospital, the Thomas Maponya Private Hospital, which will be named after our founder. This is a very exciting project which we are looking forward to and we are looking at starting the construction phase in 2021.

I am also currently pursuing my EMBA so I am looking to completing that next year and launching an exciting new project.

How do you relax?

I’ve always been a sports junkie from when I was at school so I play netball once a week to help me unwind and relax a bit. On days I don’t have netball I listen to a good audiobook and play some gospel music. I also love exploring different restaurants, food, fine dining and entertainment and going anywhere where I will find good music.

If you had an extra hour in the day how would you spend it?

Reading, meditating and listening to personal and self-development podcasts and more reading. I’m a firm believer in personal development. Personal development is very key. Stay informed, read a lot and invest in yourself daily. Stay on track, readjust if you need to, and stay focused. I would definitely spend more of my time investing in my inner health and self-care.

What message do you have for people out there struggling to survive?

Push through the pain and just keep going and doing your best to show up as the best version of yourself in every role you play or space you occupy. It does get better if you believe and do the work that is required to keep ‘surviving’ or achieve your goals. Push through the pain. Keep trying, and keep believing. There will always be challenges – embrace them and look for solutions. Nothing changes unless you do.

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