The Western Cape Health Department is expected to announce the implementation of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) drone project, that would be allowed to fly over national key points. Picture: Supplied
The Western Cape Health Department is expected to announce the implementation of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) drone project, that would be allowed to fly over national key points. Picture: Supplied

EMS drones will deliver life-saving equipment to Western Cape patients

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Dec 17, 2020

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Cape Town - The Western Cape Health Department is expected to announce the implementation of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) drone project, that would be allowed to fly over national key points.

The drone system will deliver automated external defibrillators to the scene of cardiac arrests. In doing so, bystanders would now have the ability to initiate life-saving measures while awaiting professional medical care.

EMS spokesperson Deanna Bessick said the project began in January 2017, and that the Western Cape Health’s EMS would become the first government institution in South Africa to be allowed to fly over national key points.

Bessick said today's launch at the Kloof Nek parking area, would provide an overview of the project and would also provide key information regarding the drone rescue project and the way forward.

DA provincial health spokesperson Wendy Philander welcomed the implementation of the EMS drone project, saying the initiative showcased the commitment of the provincial government to ground-breaking innovative governance.

Philander said earlier this year that the department had indicated it was in the process of acquiring body cameras with the global positioning system (GPS) and panic button features, as part of its technological safety plan to support emergency workers.

"Technology improves the safety and efficiency of health services in the province for both staff and residents of the province," she said.

EMS Rescue Drone Pilots. From left to right: Carlo Adonis, Fabian Higgins, Jason Higgins; Mark Webster and Zane Johnson. Picture: Supplied.

ANC provincial health spokesperson Rachel Windvogel said while they accepted that technology advances would improve the service, they were also aware that the service would not fix the real challenges facing the EMS service in the province.

Windvogel said for years there have been complaints regarding shortages of ambulances and EMS personnel, and constant complaints regarding EMS response times, especially on the Cape Flats and the rural areas.

"Alongside this investment in technology, we would like to see the government putting in more resources to address the real challenges of EMS services," she said.

She said it should also be noted that the drones could not substitute a properly trained reaction unit with enough, well maintained and kept ambulances to respond to emergencies and disasters across the province to get critical people in dire need to doctors and hospitals.

"The ANC supports all efforts to improve services to patients, but is wary of window dressing and a scheme to look good for the media," she said.

She called for better and improved services, "not just jazzed up with some technology while the main service wanes and suffers".

Cape Argus

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