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Government car used as ambulance

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“We also remain hopeful that some of the challenges experienced by the EMS teams in the Province will be resolved and everything will be back to normal.”

PATIENTS in Hopetown felt the impact of the lack of emergency medical services (EMS) in the Northern Cape when sick and pregnant women had to be transported to Kimberley in a government car.

The only doctor in the town apparently drove the patients from Hopetown to Kimberley.

Residents have complained about a lack of ambulances, adding that those that are available are unroadworthy and unsafe.

They have accused the MEC for Health, Mase Manopole, of ignoring their cries regarding the shortage of staff and the lack of resources at health facilities.

The residents said that they have to find their own means to get medical assistance.

“People have to make their own travelling arrangements when they are transferred to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley as there is no ambulance service available to them. Some have to pay private vehicle owners from their own pockets in order to be transported to Kimberley.

“There is only one doctor at the hospital and not enough medical staff to assist the large number of patients. This problem has been brought to the attention of the MEC several times, but she never attended to this matter.”

They also accused the provincial Department of Health of not caring about their plight.

“These people claim we are getting free medical help and should not complain. They are putting our lives at risk. Some of the people who are transferred to Kimberley are high-risk patients. What if something should happen to a patient who is being transported in a private vehicle to Kimberley, who will assist that patient? The person transporting the patient has no medical experience.

“It is painful to see people being treated as if their health is not a priority and that those who are supposed to supply these services just carry on with their lives. Urgent intervention is required in this matter as people’s lives are at risk.”

Department of Health spokesperson Lebogang Majaha said yesterday that a meeting has been scheduled for today between the MEC and EMS workers in the Pixley ka Seme District today.

“As a department, we confirm that MEC Manopole and the provincial leadership of Nehawu (National, Education Health and Allied Workers Union) held a progressive meeting and agreed to conduct another meeting on March 2 with EMS staff and management in the Pixley ka Seme District,” said Majaha.

“The MEC will address EMS staff and management from other districts in the Province, through video-conferencing units, shortly after her meeting in the Pixley ka Seme District.

“Despite the accusations made, it must be noted that MEC Manopole prioritised emergency medical services and primary health care as part of her main focus for this financial year and beyond, as they are at the coalface of service delivery.

“We also remain hopeful that some of the challenges experienced by the EMS teams in the Province will be resolved and everything will be back to normal.”

Majaha added that there is currently an internal investigation under way into misuse of EMS vehicles. This follows after an EMS practitioner was caught illegally transporting people on an unapproved trip from Hopetown to Kimberley.

Manopole vowed at the time that swift action would be taken against the practitioner.

“The MEC has assigned a task team to investigate the matter and also to look into any other forms of misconduct and ill-discipline within the service. The specific interventions will include ongoing monitoring, spot checks and regular inspections of EMS vehicles throughout the Province,” Majaha said.