SCARED: Fedusa members marched to Parliament yesterday after attacks on their members by criminals in the communities they serve. Picture: Cindy Waxa/ANA
Emergency Medical Service (EMS) staff, under attack from criminals, will benefit from an innovative solution to keep them safe. The announcement comes at the same time that trade union Fedusa marched on Parliament to complain about the safety of EMS personnel, among others.

The Department of Health has launched a groundbreaking new solution - a technology platform that will support the dual objectives of patients’ care and EMS staff’s safety. The technology allows provincial health staff located in six emergency control centres, 52 ambulance stations, and crew in 519 vehicles to collaborate around the clock, 365 days a year. Global IT group Dimension Data has been collaborating with the department to implement this technology over the last four years.

“It is critical to get the right medical teams to the right place, quickly. When you’re providing emergency medical care to this many patients, efficiency is crucial, while also balancing the person-centred care approach and staff safety,” said Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.

The Western Cape EMS is one of the busiest ambulance services in South Africa, transporting between 45000 and 50000 patients each month. Recently the provincial health department launched a safety plan to assist EMS staff, who work under dangerous conditions in parts of the metro designated as “red zones”.

As part of the safety plan this festive season, a dedicated EMS resource will be placed in the City of Cape Town’s Transport Management Centre to monitor the red zones and alert the ambulances when entering a crime hot spot. There has also been a greater engagement between the department and anti-crime initiatives linked to CCTV footage.

Overall co-ordination efforts this festive season will be further enhanced by the department’s R200million investment in state-of-the-art digital communication technology.

The investment has been made over the past four years, and is transforming how the department delivers emergency, forensic pathology and other health-care services to Western Cape citizens. Using the system’s innovative map search function facility, the agent captures the location of the incident and other specific details.

The incident location is then passed on to the dispatcher in real time. Because all of the department’s vehicles are tracked, they are able to swiftly dispatch the appropriate response unit to the scene. At the same time, incident location data is sent to a mobile terminal in the ambulance, which helps the crew navigate to the incident.

After assessing the patient, ambulance crew electronically capture the patient’s medical care data. This information, together with the estimated time of arrival, is securely forwarded to the hospital.

At the march yesterday Melomed Ambulance services administrator Salma Joseph said it was very sad that they had to march. “Our love and passion has become our fear now,” Joseph said.

“We get ambushed, we get stoned and we get robbed, and even when we have a patient on board they get robbed as well. We have had quite a few ambushes recently,” she added.

Fedusa secretary-general Riefdah Ajam said: “We are finding some of our members are being slaughtered and murdered on a daily basis, and we have seen very little reaction from the government.” 

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Cape Argus