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Another ambulance crisis

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“The licence discs have expired, the one stretcher is broken and poses more of a danger than anything else to patients while another ambulance was involved in an accident.”

PATIENTS in De Aar have to find their own means of transport to hospital where, for the past two weeks, only one ambulance has apparently been operational in De Aar, Britstown and Hopetown.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the Pixley ka Seme District also made a decision not to transport any out patients to Kimberley as of yesterday.

EMS personnel are apparently not prepared to drive unroadworthy vehicles and are refusing to work without adequate equipment, uniforms and protective clothing.

A diabetic patient in De Aar was recently transported to hospital in a bakkie because no ambulances were available.

A resident, who assisted the woman, said that the patient had gone into a diabetic coma.

“We called the district manager at the hospital who informed us that there were no ambulances available. A retired nurse used her own vehicle to drive to the patient’s home to administer a drip. After the patient was stabilised she was loaded into the back of a bakkie and taken to hospital.”

Residents said that if the ambulance had to attend to a call outside De Aar, there were no other vehicles available to transport patients.

“Even in the event of an emergency, a complicated pregnancy or a life threatening situation, we are forced to make use of our own transport, or hire a taxi to get us to hospital. If there is no transport, we are left destitute.”

They added that the other ambulances that provided services in the area had been taken off the road as they are unroadworthy.

“The licence discs have expired, the one stretcher is broken and poses more of a danger than anything else to patients while another ambulance was involved in an accident.”

They said that the ambulances were also not equipped with basic resources including oxygen masks, splints and spare tyres.

“Either these resources have been stolen or the lack thereof has not been reported. No pre-trip inspections are done, ambulances are not maintained, and there are one-man EMS crews operating the ambulances. This is against the regulations.”

Spokesperson for the office of the MEC for Health, Lebogang Majaha, indicated that MEC Mase Manopole would visit the district this week.

“Action will be taken against anyone who embarks on an illegal strike. The MEC has noted with concern the negative report regarding the delivery of emergency medical services in the Pixley ka Seme District.”

She has appealed to EMS staff to “avoid blowing things out of proportion and to rather be part of the solution”.

She added that the department had allocated seven ambulances to the Pixley ka Seme District last year.

“Our records show that the district operates with 22 functional ambulances. Inspections of EMS vehicles will be conducted throughout the district and the Province.”