Ambulances ‘endanger patients’

2009-01-18 00:00

Some of the paramedics working for the Health Department’s Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) based at the Church of Scotland Hospital in Tugela Ferry claim that the ambulances they work with are unroadworthy and dangerous.

Speaking to The Witness on Friday, the paramedics said the ambulances’ poor condition has prompted patients to complain.

Two of the paramedics, who spoke on condition of anonymity and whose names are known to The Witness, said there are a number of ambulances that should not be used.

They said that ambulances known as Alpha 57, 3, 9, 14, 12, 17 and 26 are not reliable in emergencies.

The paramedics alleged that one of the ambulances has a cracked windscreen, which makes it difficult to see at night, while the doors and bumpers of the other ambulances are tied with bandages and ropes.

One paramedic said the worst ambulance is Alpha 9. He said the steering wheel has a wobble and passengers fear the vehicle is going to break in half.

Others said two of the ambulances broke down while on duty at about 2 am on Friday and had to be towed away.

The ambulances are dirty and patients complain about them regularly, but the supervisors threaten to fire paramedics who bring the complaints to their attention, the paramedics allege.

“They [the supervisors] don’t care about our safety, and what is even more disturbing is that they don’t care about the patients. They keep telling us that the ambulances will go for servicing, but they come back in the same state. We work in the rural areas and we travel on gravel roads. The ambulances can break down at any time, but are not fixed, yet they keep telling us that safety comes first,” said one of the paramedics.

He added that the patient compartments in some ambulances let in rain, while other ambulances operate without licence disks for months.

The paramedic alleged that his colleagues are not allowed to use two ambulances in good condition, Alpha 68 and 75, in and around Tugela Ferry as they are reserved for patient transfers to Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

“Sometimes we spend hours with the patients waiting for assistance from the base when the ambulances break down. We work in terrible conditions. Some paramedics were fired for complaining about the state of the ambulances,” said another paramedic.

This was confirmed by Roshan Lil-Ruthan, acting provincial manager for the Public Servants Association (PSA).

Lil-Ruthan said most paramedics working for government are affiliated to the PSA.

He added that the association is appealing against the dismissal of three paramedics who were fired after complaining about the state of the ambulances at the Tugela Ferry base.

“It has been regularly reported to us by the employees that the employers force them to operate unroadworthy vehicles. We have alerted the Road Traffic Inspectorate to go and inspect the condition of the ambulances,” said Lil-Ruthan.

Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said that the department is not aware of any unroadworthy ambulances. He said that the department buys new ambulances every year as replacements.

He added that an inspection of the ambulances will be done today at Tugela Ferry and ambulances deemed unroadworthy will be removed from the fleet immediately.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.