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It was unacceptable that people in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, such as Pietermaritzburg, had to wait for over five hours for an ambulance, said Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
The MEC said his department had been inundated with complaints from the public on the Emergency Medical Rescue Service (EMRS). These were mainly about long response times, poor staff attitudes, and bad condition of its fleet.
“The people of KZN are unhappy with the service we are giving them. At the centre of their complaints is lack of discipline, shown by poor attitudes, poor response times and absolute disregard for human life. We cannot allow a situation where some of them damage vehicles at the current rate,” said Dhlomo.
In one district an ambulance costing R800 000 had already been written off despite this having been handed over just a few weeks ago, he said.
Addressing EMRS personnel at Empangeni during Operation Bring Back Order, a roadshow aimed at improving the EMRS service, Dhlomo said that unless this changed, the province’s health outcomes would remain the same.
He called on the public to report any wrongdoing by EMRS personnel.
Meanwhile, a visit by IFP MPLs to the EMRS at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital has revealed further shortcomings.
During its visit to the hospital, the IFP said it found:
* The advanced life support vehicle responding to code red patients was found to have defective brakes and had no siren;
* Only seven ambulance units were operational, with many of them unroadworthy;
* Personnel had no idea of how to use the equipment for monitoring vital organs;
* The recently installed AED monitors used to monitor vital organs in patients were not working; and
* There were huge shortages of equipment, staff, linen and surgical supplies.
IFP MPL Dr Usha Roopnarain said the national minister of health needed to inter-vene. She said she would be following up on the matter at the legislature through parliamentary questions.
The Daily News on Tuesday sent a list of questions to the department regarding these claims.
However, the department only responded by saying it had noted the IFP statement and would further interrogate it to establish whether it had any merit.
“The department would like to assure all the people of KZN of its firm and ongoing commitment to [providing] quality public health care services for the benefit of all our communities,” read the statement.