Medics can’t use new ambulances

2018-09-14 15:45
Nine of  the 89 ambulances handed over by the KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo two weeks ago stand idle  at Grey’s Hospital while local paramedics cannot attend scenes because of the lack of ambulances.

Nine of the 89 ambulances handed over by the KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo two weeks ago stand idle at Grey’s Hospital while local paramedics cannot attend scenes because of the lack of ambulances.

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Nine brand new ambulances are gathering dust in the Grey’s Hospital parking lot while emergency services take hours to respond to urgent calls and are forced to tell the public to take their own transport to hospitals because there are no ambulances available.

On August 28, KwaZulu-Natal’s Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo unveiled and handed over a fleet of 89 brand new ambulances to the province’s 11 health districts.

uMgungundlovu District received nine of those ambulances, which Greys Hospital staffers claim are still stationary at the hospital and have not been distributed to the four local districts — Imbali, Howick, Grey’s and Appelsbosch — for use.

A Health Department employee, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said it’s been more than two weeks since the ambulances were delivered yet they still haven’t been used.

“We are in desperate need of ambulances. On Wednesday there was not even one ambulance available at Imbali, yet we have nine brand new ambulances parked here gathering dust.”

The staffer said when they asked the fleet manager why the new ambulances were not being used they were told that the health district manager would give the order to use the ambulances when “they felt like it”.

“What is more frustrating about this whole situation is that our colleagues from other districts tell us that they started using the ambulances the minute they were delivered.

“The call centre workers are sometimes forced to tell the public to try and organise their own transport if the situation is really urgent because we just don’t have ambulances,” he said.

An Imbali paramedic, who asked not to be named also for fear of victimisation, confirmed that on Wednesday they had no ambulances available until around 4 pm in the afternoon.

“We got a call around noon about a woman who had been stabbed in the Taylors Halt area. We only managed to attend to her after 4 pm. When we got there she was already dead,” he said.

The paramedic said for the past three months they have only had two ambulances and for the past two to three weeks they have only had one ambulance because the other one was broken.

“We are working under very difficult conditions. There is a huge backlog.

“When we work night shift we need to first attend the day’s callouts since the day shift workers were dealing with the previous nightshift’s callouts. It’s really frustrating.”

The man said angry community members sometimes accuse the paramedics of “roaming around town” and running personal errands because they arrive hours after they have been called.

“This one time we arrived at a house and a man there pointed a gun at us. He blamed us for the death of his relative.

“We had to run for our lives as he was not hearing our explanation,” said the paramedic.

He said even the one ambulance they are using at Imbali at the moment is not roadworthy and that also places their lives and the lives of the patients at risk.

“The ambulances are not being fixed and sometimes they are not fixed properly. When we explain this to the public we are accused of being lazy because they’ve seen the MEC handing over 89 ambulances on the news,” he said.

Spokesperson for the Health Department, Ncumisa Mafunda confirmed that ambulances allocated to uMgungundlovu District have not yet been used.

“Equipping the new vehicles with essential equipment is currently underway to ensure optimal patient care for the public,” she said.

Mafunda said if a certain area does not have an available ambulance, the nearest available vehicle must be used as that is a “dispatch protocol” of Emergency Medical Serviced (EMS).

“Although vehicles are allocated per sub-district for management purposes, if the need arises any available vehicle can be dispatched to any area within the uMgungundlovu district.”

Referring to the allegations that the fleet manager had said the ambulances would be used once the district manger felt like it, Mafunda said, “The allegation regarding an exchange between two employees will not be commented on by the department as the allegations are based on hearsay without substantial evidence.”

Read more on:    kzn health department  |  pietermaritzburg  |  no ambulances

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