Two-a-Day’s caring approach to wellness is also good for business
For apple and pear packers Two-a-Day, a major employer in the Grabouw valley, and one of the owners of Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, their commitment to wellness for their people has also proved to be good for business.
Director of Human Resources at Two-a-Day, Dimitri Jacobs says that the wellness programme, spearheaded by Nursing Sister Cheryl Gordon, has already delivered a nearly three percent reduction in absenteeism which, according to Jacobs, amounts to an annualised saving of R850, 000 in lost productivity.
“The wellness programme is an annual calendar of healthy-lifestyle activities that the staff embrace”, says Sister Gordon adding that recently Two-a-Day has also increased the number of on-site visits by well-loved community doctor, Dr Anthony Hess. “Dr Hess would previously visit Two-a-Day one hour a week and now he holds clinic hours here three afternoons a week,” Sister Gordon says.
“From an HR perspective, not to mention human comfort, the long waiting time at the local day hospital is a problem as people need to take at least one day and sometimes two off work even, sometimes, before they get seen by a doctor. Having Dr Hess on our premises dramatically reduces the number of sick days people need to take,” Jacobs explains.
Dr Hess is a medical doctor from Botrivier who has his feet firmly imbedded in the districts of the Overberg and Groenland. He has fond memories of growing up on an apple farm called Môreson in the Elgin Valley before moving to Botrivier for primary school. Great intellectuals and legends of teaching such as John Hess, Andrew Carelse, Alfred Weber, Henry Bailey, Marie Claasen and Fred Mitchell moulded his early education.
His mother, Joy, was a farm worker and apple sorter at Two-a-Day and father Henry, a railway worker. “As a family we had little income but clarity of purpose and my parents lead my four siblings and I to harness every opportunity and to succeed despite the odds”, Dr Hess says. Jacobs comments: “We are pleased to have Dr Hess as a medical doctor at the very Two-a-Day packhouse where his mother worked for 28 years.”
According to Jacobs, Dr Hess invested 18 years at university and in the process obtained five degrees including a Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of the Western Cape and a specialist degree in medicine at the University of Stellenbosch.” When Dr Hess was asked why he did not study medicine immediately after completing his Matric at Swartberg Secondary in 1986, he explained about the hardship getting into “white” universities during that time. “This was due to the existing student quota system. Over the years I have spent 15 years in public hospitals practicing, surgery, paediatrics, anaesthetics, obstetrics and gynaecology, internal medicine and trauma. Despite lucrative offerings for overseas work I fully realise the need in our country and now focus on primary health care in the Overberg and Groenland regions which includes the work I do at Two-a-Day.”
Jacobs says that Two-a-Day contributes R50 towards each staff appointment with Dr Hess and fully covers their Schedule one to three medication. Employees only pay for Schedule 4 and above (like antibiotics and others). “We purchase medications in bulk from wholesales and sell them on to our staff at wholesale prices. Perhaps the biggest saving that Two-a-Day has arranged is that staff may now bring their whole family to see Dr Hess for the same fee. We’ve already seen how this has improved the number of days that children of Two-a-Day staff spend at school as they get to see Dr Hess and then return to school for a full day.
Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing’s managing director Roelf Pienaar describes Dr Hess’ life story as inspirational. “Our ability to sell the fruit from growers from Two-a-Day and others is directly linked to the efficient ways in which the fruit is sorted and packed so the better and healthier the workforce, the better the result in the carton and, as a consequence, the better the income achieved for the more than 15, 200 people who rely on Tru-Cape’s sales for their livelihoods”, he ends.