Medics can’t use new wheels

Paramedics strug­gle while nine am­bu­lances stand idle

The Witness - - NEWS - NOMPILO KUNENE • nompilo.kunene@wit­ness.co.za

NINE­brand­new­am­bu­lances­are­gath­er­ing­dust­in­the­Grey’s­Hospi­tal­park­inglot­while­emer­gency­ser­vices­take­hoursto­re­spond­to­ur­gent­calls­and­are­forcedto­tell­the­pub­lic­to­take­their­own­trans­port­to­hos­pi­tals­be­cause­there­are­noam­bu­lances­avail­able.

On­ Au­gust­ 28,­ KwaZulu-Natal’sHealth­ MEC­ Si­bongiseni­ Dhlomo­ un­veiledand­ handed­ over­ a­ fleet­ of­ 89brand­new­am­bu­lances­to­the­prov­ince’s11­health­dis­tricts.

uM­gun­gundlovu­ District­ re­ceived­nine­of­those­am­bu­lances,­which­GreysHospi­tal­staffers­claim­are­still­sta­tion­aryat­ the­ hospi­tal­ and­ have­ not­ beendis­tributed­to­the­four­lo­cal­dis­tricts­—Imbali,­How­ick,­Grey’s­and­Ap­pels­bosch—­for­use.

A­Health­Depart­ment­em­ployee,­whoasked­not­to­be­named­for­fear­of­vic­tim­i­sa­tion,said­ it’s­ been­ more­ than­ twoweeks­since­the­am­bu­lances­were­de­liv­ered­yet­they­still­haven’t­been­used.

“We­are­in­des­per­ate­need­of­am­bu­lances.On­ Wed­nes­day­ there­ was­ noteven­one­am­bu­lance­avail­able­at­Imbali,yet­we­have­nine­brand­new­am­bu­lances­parked­here­gath­er­ing­dust.”

The­staffer­said­when­they­asked­the­fleet­man­ager­why­the­new­am­bu­lanceswere­not­be­ing­used­they­were­told­thatthe­health­district­man­ager­would­givethe­or­der­to­use­the­am­bu­lances­when“they­felt­like­it”.

“What­is­more­frus­trat­ing­about­thisw­hole­ sit­u­a­tion­ is­ that­ our­ col­leagues­from­ other­ dis­tricts­ tell­ us­ that­ theystarted­us­ing­the­am­bu­lances­the­min­utethey­were­de­liv­ered.

“The­ call­ cen­tre­ work­ers­ are­ some­times­forced­to­tell­the­pub­lic­to­try­an­dor­gan­ise­their­own­trans­port­if­the­sit­u­a­tion­is­re­ally­ur­gent­be­cause­we­just­don’thave­am­bu­lances,”­he­said.

An­Imbali­paramedic,­who­asked­notto­be­named­also­for­fear­of­vic­tim­i­sa­tion,­con­firmed­that­on­Wed­nes­day­they­had­ no­ am­bu­lances­ avail­able­ un­ti­laround­4­pm­in­the­af­ter­noon.

“We­got­a­call­around­noon­about­awoman­ who­ had­ been­ stabbed­ in­ theTay­lors­Halt­area.­We­only­man­aged­toat­tend­to­her­af­ter­4­pm.­When­we­got­there­she­was­al­ready­dead,”­he­said.

The­paramedic­said­for­the­past­three­months­they­have­only­had­two­am­bu­lances­ and­ for­ the­ past­ two­ to­ three­weeks­they­have­only­had­one­am­bu­lance­be­cause­the­other­one­was­bro­ken.

“We­are­work­ing­un­der­very­dif­fi­cult­con­di­tions.­There­is­a­huge­back­log.

“When­we­work­night­shift­we­needto­first­at­tend­the­day’s­call­outs­since­the­day­shift­work­ers­were­deal­ing­with­thep­re­vi­ous­night­shift’s­call­outs.­It’s­re­al­lyfrus­trat­ing.”

The­ man­ said­ an­gry­ com­mu­ni­tymem­bers­ some­times­ ac­cuse­ the­ paramedics­of­“roam­ing­around­town”­an­drun­ning­per­sonal­er­rands­be­cause­the­yarrive­hours­af­ter­they­have­been­called.

“This­one­time­we­ar­rived­at­a­house­and­a­man­there­pointed­a­gun­at­us.­He­blamed­us­for­the­death­of­his­rel­a­tive.

“We­had­to­run­for­our­lives­as­he­was­not­ hear­ing­ our­ ex­pla­na­tion,”­ said­ thep­aramedic.

He­said­even­the­one­am­bu­lance­the­yare­us­ing­at­Imbali­at­the­mo­ment­is­notroad­wor­thy­ and­ that­ also­ places­ their­lives­and­the­lives­of­the­pa­tients­at­risk.

“The­am­bu­lances­are­not­be­ing­fixedand­some­times­they­are­not­fixed­prop­erly.­When­we­ex­plain­this­to­the­pub­licwe­ are­ ac­cused­ of­ be­ing­ lazy­ be­causethey’ve­seen­the­MEC­hand­ing­over­89am­bu­lances­on­the­news,”­he­said.

Spokesper­son­for­the­Health­Depart­ment,­Ncumisa­Ma­funda­con­firmed­thatam­bu­lances­ al­lo­cated­ to­ uM­gun­gundlovu­District­have­not­yet­been­used.

“Equip­ping­the­new­ve­hi­cles­with­es­sen­tial­equip­ment­is­cur­rently­un­der­wayto­ en­sure­ op­ti­mal­ pa­tient­ care­ for­ thep­ub­lic,”­she­said.

Ma­funda­said­if­a­cer­tain­area­does­nothave­an­avail­able­am­bu­lance,­the­near­estavail­able­ ve­hi­cle­ must­ be­ used­ as­ thatis­a­“dis­patch­pro­to­col”­of­Emer­gen­cyMed­i­cal­Ser­viced­(EMS).

“Al­though­ve­hi­cles­are­al­lo­cated­per­sub-district­for­man­age­ment­pur­poses,if­the­need­arises­any­avail­able­ve­hi­cle­can­be­dis­patched­to­any­area­within­theuM­gun­gundlovu­district.”

Re­fer­ring­ to­ the­ al­le­ga­tions­ that­ the­fleet­man­ager­had­said­the­am­bu­lanceswould­be­used­once­the­district­manger­felt­like­it,­Ma­funda­said,­“The­al­le­ga­tion­re­gard­ing­an­ex­change­be­tween­two­em­ploy­ees­will­not­be­com­mented­on­by­thede­part­ment­as­the­al­le­ga­tions­are­base­don­ hearsay­ with­out­ sub­stan­tial­ ev­i­dence.”

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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