Home News Residents bemoan ‘costly’ ambulance shortage

Residents bemoan ‘costly’ ambulance shortage

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The residents of Vanderkloof in the Renosterberg Local Municipality have complained that a lack of emergency medical services in the area has become very costly for patients, who have to travel to Kimberley for medical appointments.

Vanderkloof residents have complained that the town “has been struggling with a lack of ambulance services for years”. File picture

THE RESIDENTS of Vanderkloof in the Renosterberg Local Municipality in the Northern Cape have complained that a lack of emergency medical services (EMS) in the area has become very costly for patients, who have to travel to Kimberley for medical appointments at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital.

The residents explained that patients are forced to travel to De Aar, which is about 115 kilometres from Vanderkloof. They then have to overnight in De Aar in order to be transported by the De Aar ambulance to Kimberley.

They pointed out that they have to pay for the travel and accommodation expenses in De Aar, as well as for something to eat, from their own pockets.

“Vanderkloof has been struggling with a lack of ambulance services for years. The community has been crying to the health personnel at the clinic about struggling to get to Kimberley to meet specialist appointments. However, nothing has been done about this problem,” the residents said.

“The people who are dependent on the medical assistance in Kimberley are the people who do not have the money for private health care. Yet, they are now made to struggle to even get the free medical assistance they need. Many cannot meet the appointments as they do not have the finances to travel to and from De Aar and to also overnight in the town.

“Many patients are also elderly or not in a condition to travel alone and need to be accompanied by a family member. How can one send a loved one who cannot see properly or walk to travel alone for more than 110 kilometres from Vanderkloof to De Aar and then a further 225 kilometres from De Aar to Kimberley? Some households do not have the funds to pay for the travels of two people.

“It is painful that people have to miss out on crucial medical care because the Northern Cape Department of Health does not want to provide the residents of Vanderkloof with proper patient transport.”

They added that the department is ignoring the “urgency” of the problem.

“There was an incident in 2021, where a child succumbed to his burn wounds after he could not be rushed for medical help due to the lack of ambulances in Vanderkloof. That child had to be airlifted to Kimberley, but the doctors in Kimberley were unable to save the child’s life as he did not make it to the hospital in time. Three years later and this town is still without an ambulance.

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

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo denied the claims.

“The department confirms that all patients from the district are provided with transportation from Vanderkloof to De Aar, where they are provided with a waiting area and a meal before they are transported to Kimberley for their appointments. No patients are utilising or are instructed to use public transport to get to De Aar,” said Mxekezo.

“The arrangement of transporting everyone to De Aar is to co-ordinate movement and to avoid unnecessary over-resourcing of transport. Upon return, the same measures are applied when patients are transported back to their respective areas.

“No patient is expected to pay for this service. It is illegal for any health personnel to demand payment from patients.

“Patients are advised to bring information to the attention of management should they be requested to pay by any health personnel,” added Mxekezo.

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