A couple in Cradock, Eastern Cape, buried their twins on Friday who passed away last week hours after they were born at home as a result of an ambulance taking too long to attend to the mother.
A family representative who did not want to be named said the couple was distraught after losing their twin babies – a boy and a girl.
The woman’s husband had allegedly immediately called emergency medical services as soon as his wife went into premature labour, and requested an ambulance to take the 37-year-old to Cradock Provincial Hospital, which is a few minutes’ drive from their home.
Instead an ambulance was allegedly dispatched from Komani, formerly Queenstown, which is 151km away, where the region’s emergency services have been centralised.
Several calls followed, with the emergency services assuring the callers that an ambulance was on its way. It arrived more than an hour after the initial call.
“The family is very upset about the whole situation and they don’t want to speak to the media at this stage as they are still mourning their loss. However, they believe that their children’s lives could have been spared had the ambulance been efficient and responded quickly.
“Today they had to say goodbye to their two infants and they are really sad. It’s very hard, especially for the mother. It’s too much,” said the family representative.
He said he was one of the people who called the ambulance services.
“I think if the ambulance had arrived sooner, the children would have survived. Although they were born prematurely, something could have been done for them to make sure they lived,” he said.
The children died at Cradock Provincial Hospital the day after they were born.
Retief Odendaal, member of the provincial legislature and DA Eastern Cape Midlands constituency leader, said the “nonsensical centralisation” of emergency services by the health department could be directly linked to the heartbreaking loss of the twins. He called on the emergency services to be decentralised.
“People must wait, sometimes for hours at a time, for an ambulance to be dispatched because there are no ambulances based at the Cradock Provincial Hospital to service people in the immediate vicinity.
“In this case, while waiting for the ambulance, the mother gave birth to her twins at home and sadly, although she and her babies were transferred to the hospital, both twins had passed by the following morning.
“It is simply unacceptable that in an emergency, with a hospital around the corner, this family’s life has been torn apart because of a departmental policy that takes resources away from areas where they are needed,” said Odendaal.
He said he would be writing to Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba to request a full investigation into the matter and submit a motion during the next sitting of the legislature to request that emergency services be decentralised.
Provincial health spokesperson Siyanda Manana said it was not true that emergency services were centralised.
He said they were decentralised a long time ago. Manana also disputed that the ambulance had taken a long time to arrive, claiming that it took only about 10 minutes to respond to the call.
According to him, the call was received at the Queenstown District Call Centre at 8.31pm, then a Cradock ambulance was dispatched at 8.35pm and the ambulance arrived at 8.45pm.
A second ambulance was later dispatched to assist the mother while the first ambulance was attending to the babies.