Emergency medical services staff in the province are suffering from post-traumatic stress due to frequent acts of violence against them. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Work-related cases of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since January 2016 have resulted in 103 staff from the province’s emergency medical services putting in claims to the compensation fund.

Dr Shaheem de Vries, the director of emergency medical services (EMS) at the provincial Health Department, said this number of people being unable to work was the equivalent of 11 ambulances being off the road.

Speaking on the sidelines of a presentation he made to the provincial legislature’s standing committee on health, De Vries said: “The figure of 103 excludes people who may be seeing a psychiatrist or have depression related to work.”

Explaining the impact of this absenteeism on the ambulance service or the EMS, De Vries said that of the 103 PTSD sufferers, there were 23 staff of whom 16 had been unable to return to work, and that seven of those diagnosed with PTSD were back on duty but doing different work.

“That’s the other aspect of it. Even when you return to work, you aren’t going to return straight into the hot zone, you’ll invariably be assigned light duties and then transition slowly back into your former field.

“All of this has an impact,” said De Vries.

Breaking down the figure and exactly what it meant, De Vries said: “You need 10 people to provide a 24/7 ambulance service in just one ambulance.

“How this works out is that there are two people per vehicle working in 12-hour shifts. This translates to four people to keep one ambulance on the road for 24 hours.

“However, those four people, based on their conditions of employment, only work 16 days of 12-hour shifts, otherwise they run out of time and fall foul of their conditions and eventually burn out. So to cover the other 16 days another four people are needed and this brings the crew up to eight people.

“Meanwhile, all eight people need to take a month’s annual leave, and each needs a person to stand in for them when they take leave, or are absent for some reason or out of the office on training - a regular occurrence,” said De Vries

“Then you need a supervisor, someone to do the time sheets and to check the ambulance crews in and out.

“If you look at my budget, 60% goes to staff costs, 25% goes to the vehicle, but all people see is the vehicle.”


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Cape Argus