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South African Medical Service (SAMS)

The South African Medical Service (SAMS) was established as a full service branch of the SADF in 1979 to consolidate the medical services of the army, the navy, and the air force. The SAMS includes full-time army medical personnel, civilian employees of the Ministry of Defence, and (until the mid-1990s) qualified national service personnel on active duty. Reservists from the Citizen Force and from the Commandos are sometimes assigned to short-term active duty in the SAMS, as well. The military employs roughly 400 medical doctors, and private medical specialists are sometimes appointed to supplement the staff of the SAMS.

The surgeon general heads the SAMS and has the rank of lieutenant general. The SAMS operational units include three hospitals--the First Military Hospital near Pretoria, the Second Military Hospital at Cape Town, and the Third Military Hospital at Bloemfontein. There are also three specialized institutes--the Institute for Aviation Medicine, the Institute for Maritime Medicine, and the Military Psychological Institute. They provide comprehensive medical care for military personnel and their dependents, as well as the police and employees of other security-related government departments, and occasionally to neighboring countries. The SAMS also provides occasional veterinary services for animals (mainly horses and dogs) used by the security services. The Institute for Aviation Medicine and the Institute for Maritime Medicine screen pilot candidates for the air force and for civilian aviation certification, as well as divers and submariners for the navy. The military's medical services also include general medical and dental care, and specialized rehabilitation services.

The SAMS is organized into regional medical commands, corresponding to the army's regional commands, as well as a Medical Logistics Command and a Medical Training Command. The regional commands support military units, military base hospitals, and military unit sickbays in their region. The Medical Logistics Command is responsible for medical logistics only, as each service provides for its own logistics support. In addition, the Medical Training Command supervises the South African Medical Service College, the South African Medical Service Nursing College, and the South African Medical Service Training Centre, as well as the military hospitals' training programs. The nursing college, in Pretoria, grants a four-year nursing diploma in association with the University of South Africa. Specialized, in-service training courses for nurses and for nursing assistants are also available.

The SAMS implemented several retrenchment measures in the early 1990s. It consolidated all quartermaster stores in the Cape Town and the Bloemfontein areas, relocated the SAMS training center from Potchefstroom to Pretoria, closed several medical supply depots, consolidated computer centers and systems, rationalized procedures for procuring medicine and medical equipment, discontinued survival training, and reduced or closed sickbays and military medical clinics that served other armed services affected by retrenchments.

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