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R8.6m to store old ambulances

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“There are government properties that could be used for storage at a minimal cost and if the ambulances cannot be repaired they should be scrapped without delay.”

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health has been slammed for apparently paying more than R8.6 million a year to store decommissioned ambulances.

The DA in the Northern Cape yesterday called on the MEC for Health, Fufe Makatong, “to urgently scrap costly storage costs for old and broken ambulances in the Northern Cape”.

DA provincial leader, Andrew Louw, said that during a recent legislature committee meeting it had come to light that the provincial Department of Health was paying more than R8.6 million a year for two storage facilities, one in Upington and one in Kimberley, where decommissioned ambulances “were just gathering dust”.

“This is wasteful and fruitless expenditure at its worst. Decommissioned ambulances are vehicles that have been written off due to age, and ambulances with high usage and high repair costs. They are not mechanically safe to transport patients and cannot be used without putting vulnerable people at risk,” Louw said.

“We cannot tolerate a situation whereby broken ambulances are costing the department millions of rand that could have been better spent on improving ailing emergency medical services (EMS) in the Province.

“There has been a serious decline in EMS performance due to a shortage of operational ambulances as a result of regular breakdowns and shortage of staff coupled with control centres that are not fully operational. In this regard, the department is only managing to attend to 32% emergencies in urban areas within 15 minutes, as opposed to the target of 60%. In other words, lives are at stake,” Louw added.

He further stated that while Makatong gave a commitment during a meeting last week that she would resolve this matter, the DA was calling on her “to speed up the process”.

“There are government properties that could be used for storage at a minimal cost and if the ambulances cannot be repaired they should be scrapped without delay.”

The Northern Cape Department of Health did not respond to media enquiries regarding the situation.