The shortage of emergency medical services in the Northern Cape is once again under the spotlight after there was apparently no ambulance available to transport a critically wounded Prieska teenager to hospital.
THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health has again been criticised for the shortage of emergency medical services (EMS) in the Province, this time after an 18-year-old Prieska man, Quintus Jonas, died from a stab wound after having to be taken to hospital in a private vehicle because the local ambulance was apparently unavailable.
According to the deceased’s aunt, Annie Kock, even a phone call by a local police member requesting an ambulance to be sent to the scene was in vain.
“We are not certain of the details surrounding the stabbing incident because we were not present. I was busy watching television when some children who were playing in the street shouted at me that Quintus had been stabbed. I immediately rushed outside. His mother is my neighbour and I think he was trying to get home after the incident. I saw that he had collapsed near a police van that was parked in the street. I rushed over to see what the problem was,” Kock said on Thursday.
She claimed that one of the police officers called for an ambulance when they saw that Quintus was injured.
“The police officers were busy with another matter in the street when Quintus collapsed at the police van. The police members called the hospital, asking for an ambulance to be sent out. They at first told us not to touch Quintus and that we had to wait for the ambulance to arrive. The person on the other side of the line told the police officer that there was no ambulance available,” said Kock.
“We then asked the police officers if we could transport Quintus in a car to the hospital, seeing as there was no ambulance. They gave permission and we called my daughter, who came to transport Quintus to hospital in her car.”
Kock believes that Quintus died while they were rushing him to hospital.
“We saw the blood on him but he was still breathing. He was also still breathing at the time when the officers instructed us not to touch him. It seems that he died on the way to the hospital.”
She said her nephew’s life might have been saved if an ambulance had come to his aid.
“It is really heartbreaking that someone had to die because emergency services were not available to assist him.”
Kock noted that the town has been struggling with regards to access to an ambulance for many months.
“There is only one ambulance in this town. The ambulance from Prieska not only has to render services to locals but also neighbouring farming areas, including Niekerkshoop and Copperton. How many more people will have to die because they do not have access to basic emergency services,” she asked.
DA councillor in Siyathemba Local Municipality, Wiida Pelser said they have previously brought the issue of the shortage of ambulances in the area to the attention of the Northern Cape Department of Health.
“An oversight inspection to the hospital and the EMS unit confirmed that of the two ambulances allocated to Prieska, one is currently out of operation. It was involved in an accident with a kudu,” said Pelser.
“This is not the first time that ambulance-related issues have arisen in Prieska. Just last year, we established that there was no ambulance available to attend to emergencies in the area. The closest emergency vehicle was, at the time, stationed in Marydale, about 45 minutes away from Prieska, and was also not in working condition.
“At the time, the DA raised the matter with the Health Department during a portfolio committee meeting,” added Pelser.
She said that while the head of department (HOD) had indicated that the matter would be attended to, time was of the essence.
“The DA constituency head, Reinette Liebenberg, has been in discussion with the HOD, Riaan Strydom, regarding the ambulance issue. The DA is concerned that the call records in the possession of the HOD differ to what is being experienced on the ground. We welcome the commitment by the HOD to review the allocation of ambulances and patient transporters to Prieska when the new fleet, which is currently awaiting licensing, is ready to be distributed. We will closely monitor developments in this regard,” Pelser said.
The Northern Cape Department of Health failed to respond to media enquiries regarding the matter.