Durban — The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health will unveil plans to help with emergency medical services (EMS) during the festive season and beyond and new ambulances to reinforce the fleet during the festive season.
The department also set the record straight following reports on the state of EMS in the eThekwini District.
KZN Health spokesperson Ntokozo said that during the current financial year, the department procured 32 new ambulances that would be handed over to the department by the end of November 2023.
“Of the 32 new ambulances, eThekwini will be receiving five. The new additional ambulances will come in handy for the busy festive season,” Maphisa said.
Additionally, in a recent parliamentary written question and reply, the IFP’s Duduzile Hlengwa asked Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla to share records of the procurement of new ambulances in the 2023-24 financial year for each hospital and province.
Phaahla first explained that ambulances are allocated to EMS stations which are either stand-alone or co-located in hospitals, clinics and other public facilities.
“Ambulances are therefore not allocated to each hospital,” Phaahla said.
According to Phaahla, 32 ambulances were procured in the 2023-24 financial year for KZN from a total of 913 ambulances countrywide.
Maphisa went on to say that Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube recently launched the 2023 festive season safety plan, which is a collaborative effort by various sector departments towards fighting crime in the province and activation of all relevant departments to ensure safety, including deployment of EMS facilities in high-accident zones identified by road safety authorities and the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) in all of the province’s 11 districts.
Maphisa said that as part of this plan, the KZN Health Department would ensure the provision of EMS along major arterial routes in KwaZulu-Natal for the period of December 13 to January 17, 2024.
He said the plan includes aeromedical services. The department has a fully functional aeromedical service, which is provided by a panel of three service providers who are contracted to the department and can transport any eligible patient, including women, children and neonates. The aeromedical service is a provincial resource that is available to all districts, rendered based on demand. The aeromedical service protocol is in place and services will be available as per the need.
Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane is expected to unveil the EMS festive season provincial plan before the end of the month.
Maphisa said that reports published in a Sunday newspaper about a crisis in the EMS were devoid of truth and misleading and had the potential to cause unnecessary panic.
He said that the department has been upfront in admitting that, due to limited resources, it is not able to reach the national norm or the ratio of one ambulance per 10 000 community members. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the province is now at a standstill or there is a crisis.
Speaking on the state of EMS, Maphisa said: “eThekwini district has a total of 79 ambulances on its asset register and these are distributed throughout the district. The operational status changes continuously due to vehicles requiring repairs and maintenance, some of which result in longer downtime due to accident damage, a longer period to obtain replacement parts, and other technical challenges.
“Currently, the eThekwini District employs 539 EMS staff out of that wholesome it has 39 staff who fall within the scarce skills categories in their employ and can perform advanced life support and lifesaving skills per shift, which is contrary to the nine that were reported by the weekend newspaper.”
Maphisa said eThekwini was the most privileged district in terms of having these scarce skills available compared to other districts.
He said that the department had also done away with boundaries in the province, where there was a shortage of ambulances due to changing dynamics. The department can ration the available limited resources and channel them where they are urgently needed, and then return them to where they belong when the crisis has subsided.
He added that reports on the shortage of medications are not true.
“The department is not aware of any shortage of essential drugs at our facilities. EMS obtains the required drugs through identified health facility pharmacies where all required drugs are readily available,” Maphisa said.
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