Paramedics’ hands are tied

2014-04-01 00:00

PARAMEDICS in Durban claim they are forced to leave patients unattended because they have insufficient stock in their ambulances.

State paramedics at the scene of the Tongaat Mall tragedy last November told The Witness they were forced to leave the scene — with bruised and bloodied patients on the pavement — to return to their bases to fetch gloves and other equipment.

But the unions believe this is part of a wider systemic problem with management, procurement and the leadership of the Department of Health failing the ambulance crews on the road.

Meanwhile, the department has denied the allegation, claiming the equipment is neither lacking nor not maintained.

The department’s claim is backed by paramedics in the private sector who believe the Emergency Rescue Medical Services (EMRS) has fantastic equipment while working under trying conditions.

The shortage of equipment like gloves and adult oxygen masks has left many medics disgruntled with the bureaucratic red tape they say is preventing them from doing their jobs and violates their own safety and their own medical practitioner licenses with the Health Professional Council of South Africa.

“We have even been instructed by our management to scavenge gloves from the private ambulance services and from local hospitals. We are only provided with five pairs of gloves which are too small and break easily. We have to bear the brunt of the anger from the community we serve and our safety is being compromised.” said one medic.

The medic said “the channels are failing us”.

“We are here to help the community at large — even with limited resources we make a plan. If you don’t then you are reprimanded. No one is prepared to help us,” said a medic.

But Department of Health spokesperson Desmond Motha dismissed the claim.

“We have more than enough stock, however, we will investigate the claims further to make sure what these medics claim to be experiencing is resolved,” said Motha.

Sifiso Dlamini, a shop steward for the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers’ Union (Nupsawu) said complaining about stock shortages has become increasingly difficult.

“We have raised the issue but been told there is no issue. To say there is insufficient stock, it becomes difficult to prove and this leads to further frustration from the paramedics who feel they cannot report the matter as their complaints are not considered,” said Dlamini.

Netcare911 spokesperson Chris Botha said he has been impressed with the quality of equipment with the EMRS.

“They have fantastic equipment in their vehicles and are working hard to service the community,” he said.

Despite committing to respond, the Department of Health failed to reply to questions sent to them.

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