Ambulance dispute: Health department claims Tshwane in pocket of service provider
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Pretoria - Tensions between the Gauteng Health Department and City of Tshwane regarding the ambulance services’ operations licence continued to rage yesterday, with the department accusing the City of being in the pocket of an unspecified service provider.
The DA, which governs Tshwane in a coalition, joined the fray, calling for Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to speedily resolve the impasse.
The row intensified after the City accused the department of failing to honour an agreement to extend its emergency services operating licence after it expired on January 21.
The Pretoria News yesterday reported that at a meeting convened on January 13, attended by the Office of the Premier, Mokgethi and MMCs from various municipalities, a resolution was taken to extend the ambulance operations for 12 months with effect from February 1.
However, in a letter dated March 4, the department ordered the City to stop the emergency medical services, which effectively grounded at least 78 ambulances owned by the municipality.
DA provincial health spokesperson and MPL Jack Bloom expressed concern that the department’s delay in issuing a licence had forced the metro to cease ambulance services.
He said he had taken up the matter with Mokgethi and hoped it is speedily resolved with the issuance of the licence.
Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana didn’t comment on the accusation that a resolution to extend the ambulance operations was never honoured.
But she questioned “the motives behind the promotion of a private entity” by Tshwane, saying the option would put the lives of the poor at risk due to the cost of private ambulance services.
Kekana said the Gauteng executive council took a decision in 2009 to provincialise emergency medical services “in order to improve efficiencies with regards to the provision of quality emergency medical services”. This process for Tshwane was completed in July 2018, she said. “
Before provincialisation between September 2017 and January 2018, the City of Tshwane on average responded to 4 230 calls while the province attended on average to 4 857 calls in the same period in the same district,” Kekana said.
She insisted that since the provincialisation process was completed, the Gauteng EMS “currently renders on average 12 500 calls” in Tshwane alone. She urged people in the City not to panic as the provision of medical services would continue uninterrupted.
Tshwane acting emergency chief Moshema Mosia said he was waiting for the chief financial officer, Umar Banda, to process payments for the operating licence before the application could be submitted to the department.
Kekana said the City of Tshwane was being serviced by 222 ambulances and 72 other emergency services vehicles.