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Family points fingers at NC dept after young boys die from burn wounds

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Community slams lack of emergency medical services after two Vanderkloof boys die from burns suffered in shanty fire

Xander Raat succumbed to his injuries after an ambulance was unavailable to treat him after he sustained 70 percent burns to his body after a shanty fire. Picture: Supplied

THE DISTRAUGHT family of a six-year-old Vanderkloof boy, Xander Raat, who died hours after sustaining burns to 70 percent of his body, have pointed their fingers at the Northern Cape Department of Health after the young boy apparently failed to receive speedy emergency medical assistance, which may have saved his life, after a shanty fire.

Xander, and his three-year-old friend died in the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley after they were flown by helicopter from De Aar following a shanty fire in Vanderkloof.

According to Xander’s mother, Jane Rhode, they had to wait for hours for an ambulance to transport the two injured children to a hospital after the fire.

“The incident happened on Friday, March 12, after Xander and his three-year-old friend went to play inside the shanty of one of our neighbours. There were no adults with them. It appears that they found a box of matches inside the shanty and started playing with them,” explained Rhode.

“Some of the neighbours realised the shanty was on fire after they saw smoke coming from the shanty. Others could hear the children screaming inside the shanty.

“The children were afraid to leave the shanty as the fire was at the door. The people managed to extinguish the fire and eventually got the children out of the blaze.

“The fire occurred at around 10am and once the children were saved, we rushed them to the clinic. The sister who works at the clinic was not on duty that day. We waited with the children for an ambulance.

“I was with Xander at that stage and he was just lying there. His body was burnt and he was unable to open his eyes, but he was still alive.

“The ambulance arrived after 1pm and transported us to Petrusville. However, at Pertusville we could not get any assistance and they referred us to De Aar Hospital. When we arrived at De Aar Hospital they gave Xander oxygen and the staff said the children needed to be flown to Kimberley urgently.

“Two medical helicopters arrived at about 4am on Saturday morning and flew the children to Kimberley. The mother of the three-year-old flew with her son in the one helicopter and Xander was flown in the other helicopter. There was not enough room in the helicopter that transported Xander and I had to travel to Kimberley with the ambulance.”

Rhode said that a doctor at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital said the children had suffered severe burn wounds.

“The doctor told me that 70% of Xander’s body was burnt. Xander’s friend suffered 50% burn wounds to his body. I was broken and only kept praying that my child would survive this ordeal.”

Xander died on Sunday morning.

“Xander died on March 14. I was sitting by his side in the hospital when he died. The doctor told me that the burn wounds had become infected and that he had required urgent medical assistance after the fire but, as the ambulance took so long, it hampered his chances of survival,” said Rhode.

She believed that Xander’s life could have been saved if medical transportation was available.

“The doctors in Kimberley said that if we had gotten to the city earlier, then my son would have survived.

“It is incomprehensible why we have to suffer like this. Do our lives and the lives of our children not count … are they not eligible to receive the necessary emergency medical help when there is an emergency?” Rhode asked.

A local community group, For the Love of our Roots has, meanwhile said it is “appalled” that the people of Vanderkloof do not have access to basic emergency medical services.

“Vanderkloof falls under the Renosterberg Local Municipality, however, this town has been lacking basic services for many years. There is no ambulance available to handle emergencies in the area. People from this area have to be reliant on ambulances from Philipstown or Petrusville … or even De Aar,” the group said.

“Despite protests and several letters that were written to the MECs, as well as the premier, nothing has been done to address this challenge.

“There are several elderly and sickly people who have to wait for hours for an ambulance. On some days we are informed that the ambulance had to transport people to De Aar and we have to wait for another available opportunity.

“The situation of two minors having to lose their lives because they were not given the help they needed, is unacceptable and heartbreaking.”

The group said that it appears as if the area has been forgotten by the provincial government.

“We read and see reports of other towns in the Province being allocated ambulances. In December last year, the Department of Health boasted that it will hand over 75 emergency medical services vehicles and 55 outreach bakkies to address medical emergencies in the Province. The community of Vanderkloof was overlooked in that handover … and we are currently not even sure which towns benefited from the handover.

“How many more people must die before this problem gets addressed?”

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lebogang Majaha said the department is investigating the matter and “working on” increasing its emergency medical services capacity.

“We want to convey our condolences to the families of the children. The department is working on increasing its EMS capacity to ensure that we respond to all medical emergencies in the Province and even those in the Renosterberg municipal area,” said Majaha.

Xander was buried this past Saturday and his three-year-old friend will be buried this coming Saturday.

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