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East London - The Eastern Cape health department expressed concern on Tuesday at the “abuse of the ambulance fleet” after two ambulances were seen at a popular braai spot over the weekend.
“We are extremely concerned about the behaviour of some of our officials in the department,” spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.
The level of abuse of the ambulance fleet was of concern.
Kupelo said a Daily Dispatch photographer spotted two ambulances at Ebuhlanti on the East London beachfront on Sunday morning, a spot where people braai and drink over weekends.
In a photograph published on the newspaper's website, one ambulance is parked under a tree, next to a braai with an open fire. The two front doors are open while a man stands nearby.
The photographer said when he drove past before 10am there was only one ambulance with two men standing in front of it smoking, the Dispatch Online reported.
When they saw him taking pictures one of the men smiled and the other waved at him. A few minutes later another ambulance arrived.
Kupelo said the department was investigating the matter.
“To our surprise, instead of reporting the facts to the department on Monday morning, the drivers chose to issue a statement to the Daily Dispatch alleging that they had permission to be there,” he said.
“That in itself is a transgression. We are investigating and even the supervisor who is alleged to have allowed the vehicle to be at the braai area, an area known for alcohol consumption, will have to account for his actions.”
Government resources could not be “abused and used”.
Kupelo said the incident happened at a time when a cricketer died in Alice because an ambulance allegedly failed to arrive.
The health MEC had dispatched a team to investigate whether one of these ambulances would have been able to help him, he said.
“Government always makes it a point that services are available, but we are disturbed that we often get reports of the resources being abused,” Kupelo said.
“In the emergency services there are many men and women who are committed and passionate about servicing our people, and few of those who are bringing shame to the service, but we are going to put a stop to that.”
This comes after the department and a private forensics firm investigated a scam in which ambulance staff allegedly overcharged for petrol.
On October 23, Kupelo said ambulances would travel for 10km but spend over R2000 on petrol. The department suspected there was a syndicate operating at petrol stations.
Over 20 ambulances were linked to the alleged fuel card abuse. It was not yet clear how many people were involved.
He said the department would ensure that the “mischievous elements are dealt with decisively”. - Sapa