DURBAN: Injured motor vehicle accident victims are having to wait up to an hour for an ambulance as private ambulances are refusing to attend to crash scenes as their battle over non-payments with the Road Accident Fund remain unresolved.
At the weekend, injured taxi crash victims waited lay sprawled on the pavement of Mangosuthu Highway near Umlazi for more than an hour before help arrived.
Many had sustained minor to moderate injuries.
However, concerns are growing about the impact the private ambulance impasse with the RAF would have in more serious road crashes where lives could be lost if there is no immediate medical care.
KwaZulu-Natal’s public ambulance service are often treating patients who have fallen ill at home and need to be taken to the hospital.
Saturday’s incident came just days after private ambulances refused to attend to a crash on Old Main Road near Pinetown where a taxi overturned. Injured patients waited for more than 30 minutes before ambulances arrived.
In a growing but disturbing trend, private ambulance services are asking for cash upfront or requiring proof of medical aid before transporting people to the hospital.
At the core of the issue is the new RAF requirements that need private ambulances services to provide witness statements, a vehicle/or scene sketch and a police docket for every accident they attend to and have to take patients to the hospital.
“We are paramedics, there to save a persons life. We don’t have time to do sketches and take witness statements during the golden hour of saving a person’s life,” Mario Booysen, the secretary-general of the KwaZulu-Natal Private Ambulance Association said.
“Our sole purpose is to make sure that we actually beat the golden hour, we give the patients the medical care that they need, and transport them properly to hospital. Now we are being forced to do all these other things,” he said.
Booysen said many private ambulances were choosing not to respond to accident scenes because of red tape with the RAF.
He said their members had a duty to care for patients if they came across an accident.
“We do not condone any paramedic not treating a patient because that would be unethical and we will report them,” he said.
The RAF spokesperson William Maphutha has previously told IOL that they were implementing systems to verify and validate all claims that had been submitted.