Dr Rachel Seleke-Motsu became the first female superintendent of Debswana’s Jwaneng Mine Hospital in February 2022. At the time of her appointment she had been leading a team of men and women in the front line of saving lives of employees and community of Jwaneng from one of the deadliest pandemics in modern history — COVID-19.
When the lethal contagion, which broke out of Wuhan China late 2019 was declared a pandemic in early 2020, the responsibility of Jwaneng’s response fell in the hands of Dr Seleke-Motsu. She was Senior Medical Officer of Jwaneng Mine hospital, a position that meant she had to rise to the occasion because the response of the entire Jwaneng Mine operation was on the shoulders of her and her team.
“It was a huge responsibility. The whole operation depended on us, and we knew we had to make things happen. We looked at guidelines related to other biomedical responses, and started working on our strategy,” recalls Dr Seleke-Motsu in an exclusive interview with The Project Magazine late March.
Dr Seleke-Motsu and her team developed the Four-S Strategy as a response mechanism to the pandemic, comprising; staffing, supplies, space and systems. Staffing looked at ensuring that the hospital had enough resources on the ground to combat the invisible enemy which was mutating as new variants came in left and right.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Jwaneng Mine Hospital had 160 staff members. The hospital went on an aggressive recruitment of health workers, by 2022, 220 men and women were under its employ.
“Supplies became another core component of the strategy, as the response team recognized that to effectively fight the pandemic, there was a need to have appropriate supplies at all times, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies,” said Dr Seleke-Motsu
“We had to formulate clinical response teams to help fight the pandemic, and also to ensure that as a district, we had enough supplies. As facilities became overwhelmed, we had people coming as far as Gaborone, and space was another aspect of our strategy.”
Due to limited space, but having to house other patients that were coming from other regions, the team had to transform different facilities into pandemic response centers, including the 47 bed hotel owned by the mine [c-mess] which was restructured into an isolation center. A respiratory and infectious diseases clinic was established within a week.
When it became clear that COVID-19 was having devastating effects on people with underlying conditions, the team responded with introduction of e-pharmacy, set up primarily to help patients on chronic medicine. E-pharmacy was already in the hospital’s future plans, but the advent of the disease meant implementation of the initiative had to be expedited.
“There was no e-pharmacy in the country. We had to benchmark from South Africa. We worked on a business plan, and we implemented the project within a month,” said Dr Seleke-Motsu.
“The primary target are people on chronic medicine. We protected them from catching COVID-19 as we allowed them to conveniently collect their medicine without interacting with the majority mass of our patients”
There are over 600 people in Jwaneng on chronic medicine. At the height of COVID-19, the e-pharmacy usage was at 90 percent, today the usage is at 100 percent, according to Dr Seleke-Motsu.
RUNNERS-UP IN ALBERT MILTON SAFETY AWARDS
Dr Seleke-Motsu co-authored “Operation Save Botswana” a bid to track and contain the COVID-19 virus to protect Debswana employees and communities around the mining town of Jwaneng. Against an entry of 103, across the world, Jwaneng Mine emerged as the runners-up at the Anglo Safety Awards.
Named after the former General Manager of Jwaneng Mine and Managing Director of Debswana, Albert Milton, the Albert Milton Safety Leadership Awards, recognizes an employee, team or contractor that has made a significant impact on safety and/ or advancing the elimination of fatalities across the entire De Beers Group in Canada, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.
“We took pride in what we did and told our story. It is about safety and pioneering safety. Because the award is named after our former General Manager and Managing Director who valued safety, it was natural that we did our best because we own safety,” said Dr Seleke-Motsu.
“We are proud of ourselves for how we responded to the pandemic. It was through interaction with other people involved and collaboration with stakeholders that we were able to respond the way we did.”
BECOMING JWANENG MINE HOSPITAL FIRST FEMALE SUPERITENDENT
Debswana is committed to gender inclusion, and understands that improving prospects for women and girls advances an entire society and organization, as everyone benefits from the increased diversity of experience, skills and insight that a greater representation of women delivers.
The company supports the #HeForShe campaign, and has been focused on achieving parity in the appointment of men and women into senior roles to change the profile of its leadership and benefit from the greater diversity of thought, skills and experience that having greater female representation will provide.
Dr Seleke-Motsu, who has been rising through the ranks since joining Jwaneng Mine Hospital in 2013, became the superintendent in 2022. As the first female to be appointed to the position, Dr Seleke-Motsu appreciates the opportunity, not only for herself but for many others who will come after her.
“To say it is rewarding is an understatement. It is very rewarding to work for an organization that recognises excellence beyond gender. I am heralding a time when women can be recognised for their talent,” she said.
“I had been at Debswana for less than 10 years when I was appointed to the position [hospital superintendent]. For me, that’s recognition of talent, and I appreciate the leadership for the vision.”
For other women, Dr Seleke-Motsu said her appointment means it is not farfetched for them to also occupy positions of responsibility, and that it speaks volumes for Debswana to put women in positions of power. She said the appointment of women in position of power, however, does not mean men do not have a fair chance for the same position.
She also highlighted that most companies today understand the gender inclusion but admits that there are discrepancies as a result of remnants of beliefs held on women that make it difficult for them to progress. There are those that believe that women have to work double, have to be aggressive, but generally, there is good ground set by organisations, according to Dr Seleke-Motsu.
DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality
March is celebrated as women’s month, with 8 March dedicated International Women’s Day by the United Nations. Under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, the 2023 theme indicated the need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education.
Dr Seleke-Motsu said the theme for this year means creating opportunities for both men and women in technology and innovation.
“Let us have technology and innovation to propel the agenda for equality. Let it create opportunities for both men and women. Let women have the opportunities in all technology and innovation, not just social media,” she said.
Dr. Seleke-Motsu graduated with a Doctor of Medicine from Saba University School of Medicine in the West Indies in 2006 and a Master’s in Family Medicine from Stellenbosch University-South Africa in 2012. She has also completed the Management Development Programme (MDP) with the University of Stellenbosch and is currently completing her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).
She is a seasoned Clinician with over 15 years of experience in the Health Services. Dr. Seleke-Motsu started her career working at Princess Marina Hospital as an intern, later joining the Botswana-Baylor Children`s Clinic as a Research Medical Officer responsible for the care of children infected/affected by HIV/AIDS as well as research responsibilities where she was a co-investigator in several research studies.
She also joined the Botswana Prison Services as the first doctor ever to be hired by the Prison Services under the Infectious Disease clinic, where she worked with other stakeholders to pioneer health services in Botswana Prisons. She is currently serving as a Board member for the Wellness Advisory Board, a role she has held since 2017.
Dr. Seleke-Motsu joined Jwaneng Mine Hospital in 2013 as a Medical Officer and progressed to the role of Senior Medical Officer in 2018, heading the infectious disease clinic at the hospital. Dr. Seleke-Motsu is described as a capable thought leader who has provided outstanding leadership and oversight at the Jwaneng Mine Hospital.
THE JWANENG HOSPITAL
Jwaneng Hospital is fully funded by Debswana and provides services to mine employees, their dependants and members of the public within Jwaneng and surrounding areas. The hospital provides district-level care and functions as a referral hospital to clinics within Jwaneng and surrounding areas.
The hospital has 87 beds and offers holistic care in all the major disciplines including maternity and 24-hour accident and emergency services. Other services offered at the hospital include general out-patient; a pharmacy; diagnostic imaging; a laboratory; physiotherapy & rehabilitation and dental services with a visiting orthodontist.
Employees have access to health promotion and disease prevention through workplace wellness programmes, including an HIV/Aids disease management programme.
The hospital operates an infectious diseases care centre (IDCC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to offer anti-retroviral therapy and associated HIV and Aids treatment and care services to all qualifying citizens at no cost.
Jwaneng Mine Hospital was the first health facility in Botswana to be accredited by the Council for Health Services Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA) in 2007.
In January 2022 the hospital launched its e-Pharmacy and Oxygen Generating Plant. The installed Collect & GO™ smart locker system (ePharmacy), a first in Botswana, has 236 lockers.
The system enables de-congestion in the hospital especially during COVID-19 thereby minimizing transmission of disease and safeguarding first line health care workers, patients and consequently the public. The total medicine collection process takes just 30 seconds. The solution was done at a cost of P1. 3 million.
The constructed Oxygen Generating Plant harvests oxygen from the air and produces 500 litters of oxygen per minute or 2.5 drums per minute which is 30 thousand litters per hour. This equates to 150 drums per hour. The plant has a backup of 24 bottles all connected to an automated system for contingency plans such maintenance. The project was done at a cost of P3.5 million.
Dr Seleke-Motsu recognises that at the core of her success as the leader is the people that she has been working with. She said while working for Debswana builds character, and most of the time requires her to invest her personal time in her work to get the best result. She said while sacrificing personal time is part of the requirement for one to succeed, it is people who are at the core of her success as a leader, and therefore she appreciates the value of the people she is leading.
“I have grown to appreciate that there is no leadership without people. To be able to produce the good results, you need people, and need to be connected to the people you lead. I am naturally a caretaker and I lead with humility and compassion,” she highlighted.
“I have bonded well with the people are work with at Debswana, some who have been working for the mine for many years. I will always be connected to the people.”
Career wise within Debswana, Dr Seleke-Motsu believes she has reached the pinnacle of her career. However, she said if there will be an opportunity within Debswana or elsewhere, she will take the opportunity as long as it does not take her away from working with people.
In explaining her outlook on life and leadership, she referenced a quote by Marcel Proust, which says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” She spoke of how her team, while remaining the same, has been able to pursue so many opportunities because of having different perspectives, bringing new insights and having a better understanding of what they do over the years.
FAMILY AND HOBBIES
Dr Seleke-Motsu is a family woman, and because of the nature of her job, she had to rely on her husband to help take care of the family. At the height of COVID-19, her husband had to provide most of the caregiving for the children as she spent most of the time at the hospital leading the COVID-19 response. She also gives credit to the team she works with for being able to find balance between her job and family.
“Family needs planning, and sometimes it is not easy. I am fortunate to have a husband who is very supportive. He stepped in to support me during COVID-19 by taking care of the kids,” she said, adding that her husband, who is stationed in Gaborone, does not look at gender roles when parenting, as he is able to do everything in her absence, including attending Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meetings at school.
Beyond family, and career, Dr Seleke-Motsu enjoys swimming. Though she has little time to do other things apart from her family and the role at the mine, she enjoys physical exercises of all forms.
She championed the establishment of Wellness Overdrive in Jwaneng, a 60-day extensive exercising initiative across various sporting codes with the ultimate goal of achieving great health results such as losing weight.
The Jwaneng Mine EXCO patrons different sporting sections based on their interests. Dr Seleke-Motsu is the patron of swimming, which she loves dearly.