The Western Cape Provincial Parliament approved legislation that will make ambulance services safer for everyone in the Western Cape. DA Eastern Cape spokesperson on Health, Pine Pienaar, says he will investigate whether the legislation is equally applicable for the Eastern Cape.
This legislation is a first-of-its-kind in South Africa. To date there has been no legislation, nationally or anywhere provincially, to regulate ambulances.
The main objective of the bill is to require the licensing of ambulance services in the Western Cape and to regulate ambulance services in both the public and private sectors. The draft bill was published for public comment two years ago in the Provincial Gazette of 18 July 2008.
Before this legislation there were no regulations that determined what defines an ambulance, the minimum requirements for such a vehicle and what performance targets they should be measured by.
The Western Cape minister for health, Theuns Botha, said: “The dearth of standards and regulations meant that patients were all too often left at the mercy of fly-by-night operators that parade themselves as legitimate ambulance service providers who do not have the necessary qualified personnel, safe vehicles or equipment.
“The legislation provides a foundation of standards and regulation from which to launch competent ambulance services and offers the opportunity for the Western Cape Department of Health to better manage the operation of ambulance services.”
In terms of the legislation the ambulance services inspectorate will fall under the auspices of the Department of Health, which will enable the Department to hold Emergency Services to account for services rendered. To date this has been a grey area – this is simply not acceptable. Under the authority of the provincial department’s licensing division, the department will be able to manage the licensing of services to the benefit of patients.
The legislation will facilitate a closer regulated relationship between public and private sector ambulances. To date the Department of Health has had difficulty contracting private sector ambulance services because of the lack of standards on which to base service agreements. “This improved relationship will grow the pool of services available in emergency situations, and strengthen the network of emergency services to the people of the Western Cape,” said Botha.
The regulations and standards as set out in the legislation have been drafted to comply with international standards. It requires ambulance personnel to hold professional driving licenses and permits and for ambulance personnel to, at the very least, hold the basic life support qualification.
Botha said: “This legislation is fundamental to ensure a quality patient experience for our emergency patients and should have been on the table a long time ago. It is way overdue. Once the legislation has been signed into law, ambulance services will have one year to become compliant.”