Severe consequences for the misuse of ambulances

By Drum Digital
10 November 2014

Residents in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, find ambulances parked outside taverns or transporting sheep but the misuse of ambulances can have severe consequences.

In DRUM this week, we profile Elizabeth Hlophe, a mother and grandmother from the rural town of Ermelo in Mpumalanga.

She speaks about her painful experience of giving birth to her only daughter, Nurse Hlophe, at home without medical assistance.

The cause, being a shortage of ambulances in the area which residents say can take up to 8 hours to respond to an emergency.

Elizabeth has become well known in her community for delivering several babies when ambulances failed to respond.

There are currently only 38 ambulances for 1,2 million people in living in the Ermelo municipal district.

Residents complain that when calling emergency services (EMS), they receive poor assistance from call operators who are often rude and dismissive.

Some residents have complained that ambulances are being misused. Staff members of EMS use ambulances for personal matters. In some instances ambulances have been found parked outside a tavern.

Robert Mulaudzi, spokesperson the city of Johannesburg emergency service, says there are more chances of this happening in rural areas as they have not caught up technology wise. In Johannesburg, however there are severe consequences for the misuse of ambulances.

“Anyone who is found operating an ambulance for personal use will lose their job with immediate effect,” he says.

He adds that ambulances should have the latest tracking technology installed to monitor their movement.

“We can locate the whereabouts of ambulances at all times. If it travels out of its jurisdiction it will automatically switch off,” he says.

“Operators also have to notify EMS immediately when they are leaving for an emergency call and immediately when they arrive.”

However, Mulaudzi acknowledges that there have been isolated incidences where staff members have misused ambulances.

“People find ways to misuse ambulances, but there are severe consequences,” he adds.

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