Dying man wait 13 hours for ambulance ride

2011-09-06 00:00

AN Uvongo woman has complained that the KwaZulu-Natal EMRS ambulance service kept her waiting more than 13 hours before it took her son to the Port Shepstone hospice.

Arlene Lewis’s grievance comes amid numerous complaints and media reports about the inefficiency of EMRS services on the South Coast.

Emergency services in Port Shepstone, Umzinto and Harding are experiencing severe staff shortages.

Lewis’s son, Deon Burner (35), a cancer patient, was discharged from hospital a day before she put in her call to EMRS.

“I wanted to transport Deon to hospice as soon as possible as I was struggling to cope on my own,” she said.

Staff at the local hospice told her they had a bed for Deon and she called 10177 at 4 pm on August 12.

“The ambulance only arrived at 5.30 am the following day,” said Lewis.

She said the operator at the control room told her someone had responded to her call but there was no answer at her flat.

“This is a lie. I stayed up the entire night with my phone in my hand waiting for someone to respond,” she said.

Lewis said she also found it disturbing that the paramedics did not have the correct equipment to move her son.

“They arrived with no pillow or blanket. They also did not have a stretcher and instead, placed my son on a trauma board.”

Lewis travelled in the ambulance and could not fault the two assistants. “They were qualified and competent, but had no resources available to them to put their good skills to full use”.

Deon died in the hospice three days later.

The Health Department said the case was not an emergency, and an ambulance could only be sent once there was one available. However, it admitted there was an unexplained delay.

Health Department spokesperson Chris Maxon said Lewis had asked EMRS to take her son to the hospice in Port Shepstone, which did not warrant EMRS services.

“The operator in the control room advised her that the nature of the … request could not warrant EMRS services. However, the ambulance would be sent once it became available.”

Maxon said the request was passed to the incoming night shift staff who tried to reach Lewis for further directions, but the phone went to voice mail.

“The ambulance was rerouted for other calls.”

He said there was a delay in dispatching an ambulance even though the request was rated “yellow code”.

“Staff concerned should be disciplined accordingly,” said Maxon.

He said it is unfortunate that Lewis made her call during the peak line with priorities.

“The MT17 stretcher could not be utilised on the scene due to the staircased building.

“Therefore our staff decided to make alternative arrangements to move the patient out of the room and on to the M17 stretcher placed on the verandah,” said Maxon.

He said linen was provided for all ambulances operating on the day in question.

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