Ambulance shortages will cost lives over Easter

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

Severe ambulance shortages, short-staffed emergency medical services and no apparent plans in place for temporary air ambulance services all cast doubts on the Department of Health’s ability to deal with emergencies over the Easter Holidays.

The increase in road accidents and other trauma cases over the Easter holiday period is well documented, but despite promising to take steps to boost paramedic and ambulance numbers in the Eastern Cape Province, the Department of Health has yet to put its plans into action.

Lives that could potentially have been saved with a well-equipped and adequately manned EMS, including air ambulances for critically injured patients, will sadly be lost.

It is time for the Department of Health to stop talking and start acting!

International norms and standards, which South Africa conforms to, say there should be one ambulance for every 10 000 citizens. This would mean that the Eastern Cape Province needs 650 ambulances.

The province currently only has 440 ambulances, many of which are not operational. Worse, several funded Emergency Medical Service (EMS) posts remain vacant, meaning the Department can only man about 200 ambulances at any given time.

I will write to the Head of the Department, Dr Rolene Wagner, to urge her and her team to roll out their plans to fill EMS posts without further delay. They must also immediately proceed with their plans to provide competent aeromedical service, instead of a clan of incompetent cadres who cannot get their helicopters off the ground.

Talk is cheap. Lives are invaluable. The department of Health must get its priorities right and start saving lives instead of talking big and pushing paper.