Volunteers serve changing needs

2016-12-06 06:01

Born out of the need for an emergency and ambulance service in the far south, the False Bay Volunteer Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has weathered numerous changes in the community and health sector.

False Bay Volunteer EMS is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, with a function to be held on Saturday.

The organisation started in 1995 with 47 members consisting of two paramedics, 15 ambulance assistants and 30 level-three first aiders.

Started at a time when the valley was far less populated, the service saw its case load steadily grow over the years.

The organisation helped in 10 833 cases between 1995 and 2007, explains False Bay Volunteer EMS chairperson Robert de Wet.

“During that period, 9440 patients were attended to – an average of around 60 patients per month. It would be safe to estimate that False Bay Volunteer EMS has over its 21 year existence saved the provincial department of health no less than R5.5m.”

In addition, the communities of the far south have benefited in that they have received good quality emergency services and response times have been reduced, says De Wet. There are currently 27 volunteers.

Since its inception, False Bay Volunteer EMS has seen a number of changes, including those which make their work more challenging.

“Changes in the education and training environment which is having a knock-on effect on new recruits coming through the system,” mentions De Wet. “Changes in provincial legislation are having an effect on the ability of volunteer services to provide a broader service as there are new costs associated with applying for registration as an ambulance service and annual fees associated with inspections and annual licence renewals. Increasing fees – which volunteer ambulance crews pay for themselves to remain registered and able to practise – means that some practitioners can’t afford the fees in these tough economic times and have to de-register, making them unable to work as a volunteer on the ambulance.”

These changes impact on membership numbers, which puts strain on the volunteer-based service, De Wet explains.

“I feel our biggest threat will come from trying to recruit new members and maintain a large enough base of volunteers to provide a reasonably effective service in the far south.”

However, the service is far from ready to call it a day, says De Wet.

“False Bay EMS’s role in the community is changing and our executive management team is constantly looking at ways to adapt to ensure that [the service] stays relevant in our community today. When False Bay Volunteer EMS was born, there was a need for a primary emergency ambulance response in the far south. With the addition of private ambulance services, the bolstering of resources like disaster risk management and other volunteer services, the community’s need is changing and the emphasis is shifting from primary emergency response to community support,” he says.

V For more information or to get involved email info@­falsebayems.co.za.

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