Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are set to receive five brand new ambulances. This according to KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who last week unveiled a new fleet of 89 ambulances to be distributed to all 11 districts in the province.

The Amajuba District will take ownership of two Mercedes Benz Sprinters, 1 VW Crafters and two Toyota Hilux pick-up vans, all of which have been converted to ambulances. Speaking at the unveiling, MEC Dhlomo thanked EMS staff for the immense role that they play in the health value chain. He also urged the public to look after these ambulances and respect the emergency crews who use them to bring life-saving healthcare to people in distress.

“Our province is home to more than 10,5 million people, which amounts to 21% of the population of the country. At least 80% of these people depend on public health sector for their medical and health needs.“Our EMS are usually the first healthcare professionals to arrive at the scene of accident or a homestead of a sick patient and quickly assess the situation and determine the proper course of an action for that individual. It therefore becomes crucial for paramedics to get to the scene of an emergency as close to this “Golden Hour” as possible.

This is the first hour after a traumatic injury, when emergency treatment is most likely to be successful,” he stated.Due to the vastness of areas and rough terrain of some roads, vehicles accumulate high mileage very quickly, which means that they are subject to extraordinary wear and tear, and reach their sell-by date (250 000km) very quickly.

“They constantly need to be repaired and in some cases replaced. Because replacing them does not come cheap, we are sometimes forced to soldier on and continue using them even when they have reached that replacement threshold.

We are pleased to be handing over 89 ambulances, which are fully equipped to an Intermediate Life Support level, and are in line with the new EMS regulations. We see investments in new ambulances as a means to enhance the working environment for this sector whose nature of work is characterised by emergency and urgency.”
However Democratic Alliance (DA) KZN Spokesperson on Health Dr Imran Keeka has called this a ‘publicity stunt’ which is misleading to the public.

“ The MEC implies that there will be more vehicles and ultimately an improved service, yet the truth is that many of these vehicles are in fact replacements. At any given time, KZN has some 180 ambulances on the road to service a population of almost 11 million people when, in terms of our national core standards, the province should have 1 057 vehicles,” Keeka revealed. He added that despite a total of R60.5 million having been budgeted for new ambulances for the current financial year, only 60 ambulances will be procured – an entirely different figure to that which the MEC announced last week.

“The number was confirmed during an earlier joint meeting of the province’s Health and Finance portfolio committees,” Keeka ended.