As a man, 25, lay seriously ill on his bed in Arcadia, a relative and two nurses from a city clinic frantically called for an ambulance, but to their disgust, it only arrived the next day, almost 20 hours later, long after the man had died.
Sandile Dlamini insists had the ambulance arrived sooner, his brother Mlungisi’s life might have been saved. He first called for an ambulance at 2.45pm on Monday, but it only arrived at 10.15 the following morning.
“If they had arrived on time, my brother could be alive now. He could have received the treatment he needed,” said a distraught Sandile.
He lashed out at the Tshwane Emergency Services, saying their service was very poor.
Sandile said he realised on Monday how sick his brother was and went to the Sammy Marks Clinic to get help for him as he (Mlungisi) was supposed to travel to KwaZulu-Natal.
Two nurses are said to have accompanied Sandile home to see his sick brother. “When we got there they said Mlungisi was too weak to travel to Natal. They treated him there and put him on a drip. They then called an ambulance, saying he urgently needed to get to hospital,” Sandile said.
The nurses waited with them for the ambulance, and called again to check when the ambulance had not arrived by 3pm.
They were allegedly told that the ambulance was on its way, but was stuck in traffic owing to an accident.
“The ambulance had still not arrived by 4pm when the two nurses had to go back to the clinic to get their belongings before it closed.
“After the nurses had left and gave me the emergency services number, I called again. The operator told me they had my information but there was no ambulance available. I should call back after an hour to check if the situation had changed,” Sandile said.
While still waiting for the ambulance to arrive, he kept in touch with the nurse from the clinic.
At about 6pm, he thought his prayers had been answered when emergency personnel arrived at the gate of their flat.
“I went down to speak to the guys but they told me that they were from the fire and rescue unit and were there just to confirm if this was the place where the sick man was.
“They then left and said I must continue to wait for the ambulance.”
A demoralised Sandile said he continued to take care of his brother and at about 7pm he again called the emergency services to check if the ambulance was available. But he was allegedly told there was still no ambulance available.
Sandile then called the nurse and told her the ambulance had still not arrived. “I also told the nurse that I would try to bring my brother to the clinic yesterday so we could call the ambulance from there, hoping they would respond much quicker if the call came from the clinic,” he said.
The brothers woke up Tuesday morning preparing to go the clinic.
But before they could leave their home between 7.45 and 8am, Mlungisi asked to go to the bathroom but collapsed while he was inside.
“Before he collapsed, he took a deep sigh and fell down. I picked him up and took him to the bed.
“I then called the nurse to inform her that Mlungisi had collapsed and she said she was calling the ambulance again.
‘Shortly after that the matron at the clinic called me to tell me that the ambulance was on its way but that was when he made his last gasp and died,” Sandile said.
Sandile sat in the room with his dead brother from that time until the paramedics allegedly arrived at about 10.15am.
He said when they got there he told them it was already too late and they needed to get him to the morgue.
When the Pretoria News contacted the Tshwane Emergency Services to find out what had led to the delay, spokesman Johan Pieterse said they would look into the matter before commenting.
“We see this in a very serious light and we are investigating it. We will give more information once we have concluded our investigations.”
Private ambulance companies, Netcare911 and ER24, said they also transport patients to hospital irrespective of whether or not they have medical aid.
Netcare911 spokesman Jeffrey Wicks said their priority is to preserve life.
“We will help anyone in need even if they don’t have medical aid. Any person who calls our number will be serviced irrespective of where they are,” Wicks said.
ER24 spokeswoman Vanessa Jackson said they also treat and transport any patient whether they pay cash or have medical aid.
“We will transport the patient to a public or private hospital. However, because we are a private company we charge private company fees,” Jackson said.
Timeline of Mlungisi Dlamini’s death:
1st call at 2.45pm
Told the ambulance is on its way.
2nd call at about 3pm
Told ambulance is stuck in traffic because of an accident but is on the way.
3rd call between 4 and 4.30pm
Nurses go back to the clinic and give brother number to call ambulance.
Brother told they have his details but there are no ambulances and he should check after an hour.
At about 6pm
Two paramedics in a fire and rescue vehicle arrive at flat to “verify” address.
At about 7pm
Brother calls operator again but is told there is still no ambulance.
5th call at about 7.15pm
Brother calls nurse to inform her that he will bring his brother to the clinic the following morning.
6th call in the morning
Mlungisi collapses in bathroom.
Brother calls nurse to inform her.
Nurse says she will call ambulance.
Matron calls Sandile to say ambulance is on its way.
Sandile calls police asking if they can help transport the body to a morgue.
Ambulance arrives at 10.15am on Tuesday
Emergency numbers for ambulances: State: 10177, 012 310 6300, 012 310 6400
Private: Netcare911: 082 911 ER24: 084 124