Choose your am­bu­lance ser­vice provider well

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO OPINION -

As if be­ing in­volved in an ac­ci­dent or med­i­cal emer­gency is not bad enough, it is dis­con­cert­ing to hear that the am­bu­lance tak­ing you or your loved one to a hospi­tal or clinic for treat­ment may in fact, be caus­ing you fur­ther phys­i­cal or fi­nan­cial pain.

Our fol­low-up re­port in this edi­tion about the dodgy state of the pri­vate am­bu­lance sec­tor is in­deed, cause for alarm.

On a mul­ti­tude of lev­els, pa­tients’ lives are be­ing placed at sig­nif­i­cant risk.

As an aside, com­plaints are of­ten made about the level of ser­vice from the KZN Emer­gency Med­i­cal Res­cue Ser­vices, and while it may be true that at times they are hin­dered by strikes, ve­hi­cle short­ages or ad­min­is­tra­tive woes, one thing is cer­tain: the am­bu­lance per­son­nel who ar­rive on scene will be qual­i­fied and prop­erly equipped.

Based on our in­ter­views with ex­pe­ri­enced paramedics, the same can­not be said for the pri­vate am­bu­lance sec­tor – which ap­pears to be poorly con­trolled and mon­i­tored, de­spite the nec­es­sary leg­is­la­tion be­ing in place.

Am­bu­lance ser­vice providers tout­ing for busi­ness at taxi ranks is al­most unimag­in­able, but ap­par­ently any­thing will be done to get med­i­cal aids to fork out for ‘pa­tients’ who need to be trans­ferred to a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity.

The fi­nan­cial cost of trans­fer is high, es­pe­cially when the pa­tient is la­belled as crit­i­cal and in need of the high­est level of care and equip­ment en route to the hospi­tal or clinic.

The med­i­cal aids in­vari­ably pick up the bill, whether or not the pa­tient in fact, re­quired the level of trans­fer stated by the doc­tor – or even if it was a nonex­is­tent ‘ghost pa­tient’.

Med­i­cal aid com­pa­nies have got wise to the fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties tak­ing place and have in­sti­tuted le­gal ac­tion in some cases.

This has seen the num­ber of pri­vate am­bu­lances on our roads re­duced greatly in re­cent times.

But other is­sues re­main, the worst of which con­cern un­qual­i­fied am­bu­lance per­son­nel and sub-stan­dard am­bu­lances and equip­ment.

The as­sump­tion is that the peo­ple in the am­bu­lance, or those at­tend­ing a con­cert or sport­ing event, are well qual­i­fied to han­dle any sit­u­a­tion that may arise, these both in terms of their pro­fi­ciency and the equip­ment they carry.

In­sid­ers be­lieve this is very sel­dom the case, and they urge those who ap­point am­bu­lance per­son­nel for func­tions to look care­fully at which ser­vice provider they choose.

An un­qual­i­fied medic from a com­pany that has no in­sur­ance or pub­lic li­a­bil­ity cover, is an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen.

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