Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane admitted the current procedure for dispatching emergency services is fundamentally flawed and needs to be streamlined.
Mabuyane was speaking Bhisho Hospital in King William’s Town where 129 new ambulances were being handed over to the health department by Eastern Cape Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana.
The Premier explained that the despatching of any emergency service requires authorisation from the emergency medical services (EMS) call centre in East London, no matter where the emergency is in the Eastern Cape.
That means the decision on whether or not to send an ambulance can be taken hundreds of kilometres from where the actual emergency is.
Emergency service delays cost lives
Mabuyane admitted that people in the Eastern Cape die waiting for ambulances because of the inefficiency in the dispatching protocol.
“The majority of our people, particularly in the rural areas, struggle to reach health care centres due to lack of health care emergency services in their communities,” he said.
“At times some of them lose their lives waiting for the essential services. I have spoken with the [health] MEC that we must relook our service delivery model because it is not working.
“We can’t have a situation where an ambulance is available at hospital but can’t go to pick up someone in the close village because it has to wait for authorisation elsewhere.”
Tikana revealed that every effort had been made to acquire the new ambulances from Volkswagen and Isuzu to support manufacturers who were supplying jobs to the people of the Eastern Cape.
However, the short time frame they had in which to procure the ambulances meant that had to make some exceptions.
“Ambulances are special vehicles, they are different from other vehicles that you can just get from any other dealership,” Said Tikana.
“They have to be manufactured and there are a lot of other things that need to be fitted in a vehicle that is going to be used as an ambulance.”
Police minister’s visit
The Eastern Cape has been getting a lot of attention recently and Port Elizabeth’s crime hotspots were visited by Police Minister Bheki Cele earlier in the week.
Cele admitted there was a problem with corruption in the police force, but did not believe it was necessary to deploy the army like they did to fight gangsterism in the Western Cape.
“Those police officers working with gangs must be arrested. When you say police are corrupt, you must give the names so that we can investigate those individual troublesome members but not to generalise,” he said.