The service of the private sector is urgently needed to alleviate the current critical shortage of ambulances and drivers in the Nelson Mandela Metro.

During the past weekend I received numerous phone calls from frustrated residents, especially Bethelsdorp and the surrounding area, because ambulances were simply not responding to emergencies.

Upon inspection of the main ambulance depot at Livingstone Hospital this morning (subs: mon, 19 Apr) I discovered that only four ambulances were available this weekend to service the entire Metro-area up to the Gamtoos River Bridge (excluding Uitenhage). This is an area with over 1 000 000 residents. The national norm prescribes that there should be one ambulance for every 10 000 people.

It also transpired that a number of ambulance drivers were suspended by the Department of Health on Thursday last week for not having the compulsory Public Driving Licence (PDP) and for not being members of the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Renewal of the PDP licence and HPCSA members costs over R1 000, which the ambulance drivers are expected to pay out of their own pockets.

One would have expected the Department of Health to at least have made the necessary arrangements for additional personnel in order to avoid the bottleneck-situation that occurred over the weekend.

The DA has continuously been exposing the shortcomings of the Emergency Services in the province. Yet the situation is not improving. Humansdorp, for instance, continues to operate without an ambulance assistant.

The bottom line is that the Department of Health is not ready to deal with the influx of visitors for the Soccer World Cup.

The DA again calls on the provincial government to bring the Eastern Cape Department of Health to book. The situation can be resolved by calling in the help of the private sector on a contractual basis as well as the assistance of the emergency services of the National Defence Force.

*** Please see the attached photographs of broken ambulances at the PE ambulance depot at the Livingstone Hospital.

For further information, please contact Pine Pienaar, MPL on 082 446 1888