The Eastern Cape is operating with less than 20% of the required number of State ambulances as dictated by National norms and standards. The province is supposed to have a fleet of 680 ambulances, but currently operates with only 109 vehicles.

A reply to a legislature question by the Democratic Alliance further reveals that the province began with a backlog, after a total of only 249 out of the standardise figure of 680 were originally received by the department. Out of the 249 original vehicles, 55 have since been written off and 85 are currently out of commission.

While future plans include the procurement of 18 ambulances before the end of the current financial year and an additional 100 vehicles thereafter for the department’s own fleet, this does not address the current problem. For example, Humansdorp and Kareedoow are operating with one ambulance each. In cases where these local ambulances are already out on a call, emergencies cannot be attended to. The picture is bleak if one considers a scenario where it will take at least 45 minutes to get an ambulance from Port Elizabeth or Uitenhage, if a serious car accident happened on the N2 highway in that area. Similar scenarios can happen anywhere in the province.

It has transpired lately that the department is not only bankrupt, it is R1, 8 billion in the red. Earlier I learned that the administrative side of the department has been without Telkom services for the past two weeks due to an unpaid bill of R27, 5 million.

The latest shocker, contained in the reply to the DA’s questions, is that R23, 8 million is owed to Fleet Africa for ambulances.

Considering the dismal overall situation in the Department of Health, the DA calls for urgent national intervention. It is becoming clear that the necessary political will is lacking with the MEC for Health and the Eastern Cape Premier, both who have been warned repeatedly that health services in this province is on its knees.

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

*** Copies of the reply to the questions by the DA are available on request.

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