Paramedics from private companies took to the streets of Pietermaritzburg over unfair treatment by the Health Department. Photo Facebook.
Paramedics from private companies took to the streets of Pietermaritzburg over unfair treatment by the Health Department. Photo Facebook.

KZN paramedics want to be treated fairly by the Health Department

By Lethu Nxumalo Time of article published Jun 6, 2021

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Durban: Members of the KwaZulu-Natal private ambulances association (KZNPAA) protested outside the health MEC’s offices in Pietermaritzburg on Monday, and handed over a list of grievances. They were joined by Gauteng-based Private Ambulance Services Association (PASA), which is facing similar issues with its members.

Paramedics have taken issue with the vaccination process saying they were not being treated as front line workers. None of them have been vaccinated and are expected to join the queues of ordinary citizens.

Another issue was licensing and registration fees made to the department. The association said these were unrealistic, unaffordable and that they “serve to block and suffocate economic progress.”

The association claimed that the medical aid schemes were also taking advantage of the district-based licensing and often refused to pay for pick-ups beyond licensed districts.

Dissatisfaction with the emergency medical services inspectorate unit officials was raised, and the union said inspectors were accorded regulator’s status by the department without a statutory or regulatory order permitting it.

Andile Nduli, KZNPAA president, said members had no issues with being regulated, however, an annual licensing fee of approximately R26 000 for someone with two vehicles was unacceptable.

Nduli said the EMS regulations stipulate that one ambulance should have eight staff members, four ambulance assistants and four intermediate life support staff. But the department took their intermediate life support staff and they had none left and could not train more since the colleges were shut down.

“Since we are paying exorbitant registration fees, we would like to receive a detailed report on how the money obtained is utilised. We are paying inspectors who are employed by the department. They are already being paid for their jobs,” he said.

“We need the department to communicate with us. There is no formal communication yet they have an updated database of all the private ambulance companies. We would like to have a private ambulance indaba where we will sit down and iron out all this,” said Nduli.

He said another entity that was hindering their progress was the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

He said that when private ambulances respond to accidents involving patients without medical aid, they claim from the RAF. However, since the beginning of the lockdown, they had not received any payments.

Initially, payments were made within 30 days, but the RAF has extended the payment period to 120 days.

“Another issue is that the RAF now requires ambulances to submit an accident report with their claims. Before, we were only required to submit details of the accident, now they want a copy of the official accident report for each accident which costs R120,” he said.

“Some people do not even report accidents when they don’t have insurance, and if there is no report, the RAF refuses to pay us.”

Nduli said when they arrived at the department’s offices they were told that the MEC was not available but a senior legal officer received their memorandum.

“We have not heard anything yet from the department, and if the 14 day period lapses, we are heading to Minister Zweli Mkhize and we will be joined by other provinces,” he said.

“Yes, he has a lot on his plate and he is facing challenges, but we are taking our fight and cries to him.”

Ntokozo Maphisa, KZN Department of Health spokesperson, said they had received and accepted the letter of grievances from private paramedics.

“The department has no reason to exclude any sector from the vaccination process. The department has always urged all essential workers, including paramedics, to register so that they may be vaccinated.”

William Maphutha, RAF spokesperson, did not respond to the Sunday Tribune.

The Sunday Tribune

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