Unroadworthy ambulances not in use, says Health

2009-01-19 00:00

Senior officials of the Health Department were dispatched yesterday to the Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) base in Tugela Ferry to conduct an inspection after The Witness reported that ambulances there are allegedly endangering patients’ lives.

Health spokesman Leon Mbangwa said the officials discovered that the ambulances referred to by The Witness are due to be auctioned off and are not part of the operational fleet.

“Tugela Ferry has five ambulances operational in a shift — a Mercedes issued in 2006, two Isuzus issued in 2007, a Nissan issued in July 2008, a Toyota Land Cruiser issued in December 2008 and a Sprinter issued in October 2008. The ambulances referred to in the article are ambulances that are awaiting boarding and auctioning,” said Mbangwa.

He said there is a fleet officer who ensures that vehicles are serviced on time and repairs are attended to. However, said Mbangwa, the difficulty is that Tugela Ferry has no suppliers to service and maintain vehicles. He said the ambulances have to be taken to Dundee or Newcastle for repairs.

“We do experience delays in repairs. It is the responsibility of all emergency care practitioners to make sure that all ambulances are clean at the beginning of every shift and shift supervisors are there to make sure that happens,” said Mbangwa.

Vehicle faults are reported when the vehicles are inspected at the beginning of any shift, Mbangwa said, and reported to the shift supervisors.

He said the department would not risk patients’ and staff members’ lives by sending them on a call in an unroadworthy vehicle, as was alleged.

The paramedics who spoke to The Witness about the unroadworthy vehicles insisted that the vehicles are still in use and are being driven regularly by the paramedics.

The Witness understands that some of the unroadworthy ambulances were towed away from the base by tow-trucks yesterday.

thandom@witness.co.za

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