Emergency services suffer in staffing squeeze

2011-08-17 00:00

ALLEGATIONS have surfaced that KwaZulu Natal Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) in Port Shepstone, Umzinto and Harding are dysfunctional.

An anonymous source told The Witness that these bases are short-staffed, vehicles are in bad condition and numerous manager posts have been vacant for years.

The source said these factors account for why ambulances sometimes fail to respond to emergencies on time.

“Sometimes people call for an ambulance in the morning and only get one in the afternoon or at night.”

Service delivery would improve if the managerial vacancies were filled, the source added.

It is also alleged the staff structure has been shuffled to accommodate management positions and that little attention is being given to the insufficient staff who attend to emergencies.

Vacant posts at the Port Shepstone base include an operations manager, zonal officer, communications officer, disaster co-ordinator and human resources practitioner.

There are also allegations that certain staff in lower-grade positions are paid the salaries of senior staff.

The source said two employees no longer work night shifts but are still paid a full salary.

There are also claims that three staff members were dismissed more than a year ago and the cases are still under arbitration.

“Management is doing nothing. An institution, if being run like this, will never function properly.”

Similar problems are apparently being experienced at Harding EMRS.

The zonal officer’s post has been vacant since 2009.

Acting supervisors reportedly complete admin work in the mornings and thereafter attended to emergencies.

“While doing office work emergency calls are ignored and there is only one life support staffer who works on weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm.”

An advanced life support paramedic from Umzinto allegedly earned a salary of R21 000 while on sick leave for over a year.

“Umzinto and Harding rely on Port Shepstone base if there are emergencies after 4 pm on weekdays and on weekends,” the source said.

Combined the three branches have a fleet of only 15 ambulances, some of which have 300 000 km or more on the clock and are in a bad condition.

Chris Maxon, a spokesperson for KZN Health Department, said the department is aware of most of the issues raised by the source.

He said, “EMRS has been busy attending to them where issues have been identified. Staff who are currently in acting positions are appreciated for doing a sterling job.”

Maxon said EMRS is currently filling 30 posts that will improve the service.

He failed to comment on the other allegations.

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