Health Dept told to speed up ambulance delivery

2013-02-14 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department is facing an uphill battle in converting its vehicles into ambulances.

The department told the health portfolio committee in the legislature this week that red tape had delayed the process.

It said it took up to four weeks to convert the vehicles into ambulances, and that delays arose with tender procedures when stretchers and two-way radios were to be installed during the conversion.

Nkatheko Sithole, of the department’s emergency medical services, said the department bought 125 ambulances in 2009/10 using a Fifa grant. They were bought in early 2010 and delivered for use in October during the World Cup tournament. Sithole said a further 274 vehicles were ordered in the same year and were partly delivered in December 2010.

“Of these, 115 needed conversion. There was a delay in commencing with the conversion of light delivery vehicles,” he said.

The delay was due to the tender process, which involved an appeal by a losing bidder. It was only in 2011, after the losing bidder had lost the appeal, that the vehicles were approved for conversion into ambulances.

Committee chairperson Lydia Johnson instructed the department to speed up the conversion of the vehicles.

Earlier, the committee was told that there were 29 Toyota Land Cruisers and four Mercedes-Benz panel vans waiting to be converted into ambulances, while 386 had been converted since 2011.

Sithole said it was difficult for him to give the exact date when the remaining vehicles would be converted. The department told the committee no ambulances were bought this financial year. Instead it had ordered buses to replace its ageing fleet for patient transport.

“We introduced 60 patient transport services, for which 39 are 23-seater buses and the rest are 16-seater buses,” Sithole added.

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