When it comes to accessing specialist medical treatment those living in the rural parts of South Africa are often the most vulnerable.
For that reason the SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS), in conjunction with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, provides an essential service by sending specialists and allied healthcare workers to remote regions, where they provide essential treatment at facilities close to patients’ homes.
Yet in addition to the 12 emergency aircraft, the AMS also requires ground support and thankfully two Chery dealerships have come to the party to provide the official support vehicles in KwaZulu Natal.
Chery Pinetown and Chery Umhlanga have provided a Tiggo 7 Pro and Tiggo 8 Pro to transport allied healthcare workers to outlying areas of the province, with one vehicle stationed at King Shaka International Airport, north of Durban, and another at Greys Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.
The vehicles will ensure that healthcare professionals can reach areas where access by aircraft is difficult or impossible. These on-the-ground services will be offered five days a week, from Mondays to Fridays.
The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro boasts a ground clearance of 207mm and is powered by a 1.6-litre turbopetrol engine with 145kW on tap, while the Tiggo 7 Pro has a 1.5T engine good for 108kW.
“We are thrilled about our collaboration with Chery and deeply appreciate the support from Chery Pinetown and Chery Umhlanga in helping us deliver this essential service to the KwaZulu-Natal community,” said Farhaad Haffejee, CEO of AMS.
“Partnerships like these play a vital role in fulfilling our purpose of ensuring equitable access to healthcare. The real contribution that these vehicles will have on the programme is one of touching the lives of rural communities in such a way that it contributes directly to changing and saving the lives of ordinary South Africans who otherwise would have to travel long distances at great expense to seek healthcare," Haffejee added.
KwaZulu-Natal’s rural health outreach service was started in 1998, but was unfortunately terminated in 2020. Thankfully those involved were able to relaunch the service in June 2023, however funding remains a challenge.
“When we then decided to relaunch outreach in this province with the understanding that funding was going to be a challenge, it was for no other reason except that we fully understood what the withdrawal of the programme meant to communities of rural KwaZulu-Natal,” Haffajee said.
The CEO added that the AMS would continue to seek funding from the private sector to ensure it is able to make a meaningful impact on the healthcare of all South Africans.