Home News Sick patients forced to hitchhike to city

Sick patients forced to hitchhike to city


Patients from far-lying areas of the Northern Cape are forced to hitchhike to Kimberley or make use of private transport in order to receive medical treatment.

File picture. Picture: Independent Media

SICK patients from far-lying areas of the Northern Cape are forced to hitchhike to Kimberley or make use of private transport in order to receive medical treatment, due to an apparent shortage of patient transport vehicles.

The vehicles are said to be unroadworthy as they are not being maintained properly, where ambulances that are meant to transport critical patients are sometimes sent out to collect and drop off patients in need of medical treatment.

Doctors have also indicated that the termination of air medical services has aggravated the situation, where the service could previously assist patients living in remote areas.

Patients who had to sleep overnight in Kimberley said that they were forced to sleep on the floor at Harmony Home due to a shortage of beds.

The mother of a two-year-old oncology patient said that she hitchhiked from Postmasburg to Kimberley this week.

“Time and time again there is a problem with the transport, where the buses are either out of order or are unavailable,” the mother said yesterday.

“We are not informed when there are no buses and we are left standing at the pick-up point from 5am only to find out that there are no vehicles. Even if it is not safe, I have no choice but to catch a lift from whoever is willing to transport us and pay the driver out of my own pocket, although I am not working.”

A grandmother who stays 15 kilometres from Upington said that she had to make use of a taxi to travel with her three-year-old grandson to undergo chemotherapy at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley.

“There are a lot of cancer patients in Upington who require treatment and there are no oncology paediatric specialists there, unless we make use of private doctors. Those who do not have any means of travelling to Kimberley are missing treatments or are left to die. It is a bonus if we are provided with patient transport. Sometimes the buses are full and there is no space for us and we are forced to return home,” the grandmother said.

She added that one of the patient transport vehicles had to be written off after it collided with a kudu, while another patient transport vehicle in Springbok was also not in circulation after it was involved in an accident.

The spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, Lulu Mxekezo, said that access to health services was always considered to be a priority.

“The department always ensures that transport is available for critical patients. Patients from outlying areas are transported with patient transport vehicles or ordinary minibuses. Only in the event of shortage, and only stretcher cases, is an exception made to transport patients by ambulance,” said Mxekezo.

She stated that the department had revived the air ambulance services in the Province to resuscitate outreach services to reduce the number of patients that needed to be transported to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital.

“Patients from outlying areas who require specialist services in Kimberley obviously cannot travel back on the same day and are accommodated overnight at Harmony Home.”

Mxekezo added that the department had contracted a fleet manager responsible for the maintenance of state vehicles, including ambulances.

“These vehicles are regularly checked, serviced and maintained.”