“Emergency care services will need a licence to render care in the province,” said KZN MEC of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. This, as the KZN Health Department implements the Emergency Medical Services Regulations promulgated under the National Health Act, 2003.

MEC of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo seen inspecting an ambulance

All emergency care service operators will need to submit an application to the department by the end of November 2018. Their business operations will then be assessed and those who comply with regulations will be granted a licence. The licence will be valid for one year and will permit the operator to work only within a specific health district. Services will be licenced according to service levels and some of the regulations include minimum staff requirements, vehicles and hygiene regulations. “Those whose licence applications are deemed unsuccessful, following the assessment, will be given reasons for this, and asked to rectify their shortcomings and resubmit their applications,” said Dhlomo.

Dhlomo added that these regulations will affect all emergency care services operations, including those within the KZN Department of Health. “The primary aim of these regulations is to improve the quality of patient care and rid the sector of fly-by-night operators, whose conduct has, at times, placed patient’s lives at risk,” said Dhlomo.

“The initiative aims to combat the ‘current unregulated environment’ in the province, where there has been nothing to ensure that both public and private emergency care services are manned by registered and adequately trained staff with proper equipment,” added the MEC.

“These regulations seek to address this and also ensure consistency and standardisation of operations in the sector, so that the service is the same, anywhere, everywhere and at any time – regardless of the operator involved. The licence application process will be overseen by an independent advisory committee which will make recommendations to the Head of Department. This committee is composed of an expert in emergency medicine, a representative of South African Local Government Association (SALGA), one representative each from the public and private emergency care services, and a representative of healthcare users,” he

Rescue Care Paramedics Operations Director, Garrith Jamieson welcomed the new regulations.”The decision to further regulate private ambulance services across the country is something that should be welcomed wholeheartedly.The regulations will, in their essence, hold providers to a higher standard which will ultimately lead to better care for the most important individuals in this scenario; our patients,” said Jamieson. Jamieson added that the regulations would not affect the operations at Rescue Care. “At Rescue Care we ascribed to these standards long prior to the introduction of these regulations, and put our patients first in the way we operate our service. We hope that the regulations will root out unscrupulous companies that only serve to benefit themselves at the cost of the patients they treat,” he said.

The Health Department is in the process of establishing an independent licensing and inspectorate unit which will administer the licensing and inspection processes. The licence application fee is R8 000 per operator and the inspection fee is R2 000 per station, R300 per ambulance, R300 per response vehicle and R500 per rescue vehicle. The annual licence renewal fee is R2 000 per operator while vehicle fees remain the same. There is also an additional R1 000 inspection fee per station. A licence application may be withdrawn and the application fee reimbursed if the application is withdrawn before being processed by the advisory committee. However, the application fee will be forfeited once the application serves before the advisory committee.

Any operator who continues to provide emergency care services without a licence shall be guilty of an offence and may be liable, upon conviction, to a fine of up to R500 000 or a jail term of up to five years, or both.