With the start of the holiday season, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has revealed to parliament that South Africa has fewer than half the number of ambulances required to meet the population’s emergency needs.
In fact, the country has a shortage of 3 401 ambulances with Phaahla further divulging that the ratio currently used by all provinces is, one ambulance per 10 000 people. Using this ratio, this means that KwaZulu-Natal only holds 432 ambulances with a shortage of 742.
This unsettling matter was revealed by the Minister of Health in response to the Democratic Alliance parliamentary question.
Focussing on Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, Newcastillian News spoke with local EMS providers to establish how this all impacts a town known for its high accident and incident rates over the festive season.
Base manager for KwaZulu Private Ambulance Sifiso Zwane said that it was important to remember that the private Emergency Medical Sector (EMS) worked closely with the state EMS, ensuring they received the necessary support where needed.
“There are a few private ambulance services in Newcastle who have nine ambulances between them. The paramedics at KZN Private Ambulance are also working throughout the festive period to ensure residents from Newcastle, Madadeni, Osizweni, Utrecht and Dannhauser receive help as soon as possible when needed,” added Zwane.
Ziyaad Warasally, base manager for Newcastle ER24, said that ER24 was also fully equipped and staffed to deal with emergencies should and when the need arises
“We are ready to support to the community, no matter what the emergency,” he stressed.
Both Warasally and Zwane emphasised that the shortage of ambulances in the state did not impact them, nor would it hinder their response time.
Additionally, Warasally explained to not place a further strain on EMS staff during the festive season, it was essential that people refrained from activities which contributed to serious collisions and fatalities. “Drinking and driving, driving while fatigued and high speed driving, contribute a lot to collisions during the festive season.”
While the private EMS sector now supports the state EMS sector during their challenge, the onus is now on residents to avoid adding further strain on paramedics who selflessly give of themselves to save others.
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