KZN state ambulance service crippled

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Durban - The state ambulance service in Durban has been crippled by a wildcat strike over a longstanding wage dispute, medics say.

Bases across the city were unstaffed on Wednesday night as the protest action over Occupation Specific Dispensation entered its third day.

This follows repeated attacks on paramedics who refused to join the illegal stay-away.

An ambulance was stoned when it was leaving the Prince M’Shiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi on Tuesday and on Monday two ambulances were hijacked and torched in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

On Wednesday night a car belonging to a paramedic who refused to stay away from work was torched in Newlands West.

Sources within the Emergency Medical Rescue Services, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from Department of Health, said that the strike had scuppered the ability of the state ambulance service to deal with emergencies.

“Last night [Wednesday] no ambulances were running at the bases in Durban Central, KwaMashu, Umlazi and Wentworth,” one source said.

The ambulances serve thousands of people who last night had no access to emergency medical treatment.

“The staff have been intimidated and fear for their lives when they come to work. They took their concerns to management who said that if they don’t like it they should take unpaid leave and go home,” the source added.

“With so few ambulances operational because no one is coming to work, we will soon reach a public health crisis. Even with all the resources from the private medical sector, we would not be able to handle the call volumes.”

The KZN health department issued a statement this week insisting that as an essential service, paramedics would not be protected in their strike action.

It also promised harsh action against anyone who failed to comply with this.

Repeated attempts to get answers from department on how the crisis was being handled were unsuccessful.

Read more on:    durban  |  service delivery

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