Health still mum on medics’ go-slow

2014-05-15 00:00

THE Pietermaritzburg city centre and surrounding areas were without provincial ambulances and other emergency services for the third straight day yesterday after all emergency services workers took sick leave or family responsibility leave on Monday.

The entire contingent of staff members, estimated to be around 300, which includes para­medics, and others working at the emergency centre from the uMgungundlovu District, are still not on duty.

Several attempts to get the department to elaborate on their contingency plan for the past three days have drawn a blank.

“There is no contingency plan,” claimed an informed source who refused to be named.

“The management is trying to do the work themselves and they cannot cope. They’ve also brought in other medical services employees from Durban to work here,” the source said.

“There are only a few people so all they are doing are inter-hospital transfers, taking patients from this hospital to that hospital, but all those people who are at home and need to be picked up are not being picked up,” said the source.

Paramedics from ER24 told The Witness yesterday that they had, along with some other private ambulance services, been assisting the department with the overload of calls.

“We have been very busy picking up patients that would usually have made use of state ambulances. It’s been madness; we’ve been running all day and are still busy,” one said last night.

Another ER24 paramedic said they had “been on the go constantly for 72 hours, without a break for a cup of coffee”. He said they were treating critical patients — both trauma and medical-related — for the state.

The provincial paramedic source claimed most staff members who were “sick”, were mostly angry over overtime pay owed to them.

“I am drowning in debt because of them,” said the source, who claimed not to have been paid since last year.

“They gave us no explanation of what was happening and now they see the pressure is on them, they say they will resolve the issue within 14 days.”

The source said they learnt from management that today about 52 employees will be paid some of the money owed to them. “There are around 300 employees in that office, so how are they going to decide which employees will be paid and which won’t be?”

The department was contacted again for comment yesterday but again did not respond.

The IFP’s Dolo Zondi said he received two complaints on Tuesday night and yesterday morning.

“These are essential services that should not be disrupted yet the department has allowed this to happen. We cannot force the EMS staff to work if there are issues they are not happy with … but the department is responsible; they should have taken measures to make sure this essential service to the community is not disrupted.”

DA leader Mergan Chetty said he had received two complaints on Monday.

“One person was a diabetic patient and her sugar level had dropped and the other uses an oxygen mask; he was about to run short and his family called the EMS.”

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