Taking chances with the lives of heads of state

2013-07-04 00:00

THE breakdown of the ambulance transporting former president Nelson Mandela was part of a much bigger disaster waiting to happen.

This was underlined when delegates from Brazil, Russia, India and China, who met in Durban during March for the Brics conference, also complained about the broken equipment and lack of supplies in case of an emergency involving the heads of their states.

The Chinese and Russian delegations particularly were reportedly livid because the ambulances, made available by the presidential medical unit (PMU), did not even have oxygen on board.

The foreign teams had to buy or rent their own equipment, including defibrillators.

Members of the PMU told sister paper Beeld that the breakdown of the ambulance that left a very sick Mandela stranded on a highway in the early hours of a cold winter morning was symptomatic of maladministration in the unit.

Apart from broken or missing equipment, doctors have resigned from the unit because of an ongoing issue with non-payment of overtime, while recent clerical errors have seen some doctors being paid a salary of just R2 000.

Family members of the doctors told Beeld that several members in the unit work as nurses on ambulances, but they were not registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa, as is required by law.

The family members told Beeld that the unit was being managed by people without medical qualifications, which was why unqualified people were placed in positions where their lack of insight could result in the deaths of patients in their care.

“The incident with Mandela is now in the spotlight, but sooner or later there will be a disaster and then the entire mess will be made public,” one angry member told Beeld.

“One doesn’t takes chances with the lives of heads of state.”

The SA Military Health Services did not want to comment on what it termed “operational ­matters” to do with the unit.

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