Media Statement to provide clarity, following reports on the state of emergency medical services at eThekwini District

KZN Health unveils plans to assist with emergency medical services during the festive season and beyond

New additional ambulances to beef-up fleet during the festive season period

14 November 2023

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health would like to set the record straight on the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in and around eThekwini Region and the province at large and correct certain claims that have been made in various media houses, regarding the state of ambulances in the province.

Reports published in a Sunday newspaper about a purported "crisis" in the Emergency Medical Service in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as information provided by the so-called "internal sources" are devoid of truth, misleading, and carry the potential to cause unnecessary panic.

Through our open door policy, the Department has always encouraged employees who wish to raise their concerns or grievances to raise such concerns using established internal protocols to avoid unnecessary rumour mongering.

Furthermore, the department has been upfront in admitting that, due to limited resources, it is not able to reach the national norm or the ratio of one ambulance per 10 000 community members. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the province is now on standstill or there is a crisis as was painted by the faceless rumour mongers.

eThekwini state of emergency services:

EThekwini district has a total of 79 ambulances on its asset register and these are distributed throughout the district. The operational status changes continuously due to vehicles requiring repairs and maintenance, some of which result in longer downtime due to accident damage, the longer period to obtain replacement parts, and other technical challenges.

Currently eThekwini District employ 539 EMS staff out of that wholesome it has 39 staff that fall within the scarce skills categories in their employ who are able to perform advanced life support, lifesaving skills per shift, which is contrary to the nine that was reported by the weekend newspaper. EThekwini is the most privileged district in terms of having these scarce skills available comparatively to other districts.

We have also done away with boundaries in our province, where there is a shortage of ambulances due to changing dynamics, the department is able to ration the available limited resources and channel them where they are urgently needed, and then return them to where they belong when the crisis has subsided.

The reports on the shortage of medications are not true. The department is not aware of any shortage of essential drugs at our facilities. EMS obtains the required drugs through identified Health facility pharmacies where all required drugs are readily available.

New Ambulances

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has, during the current financial year, procured 32 new ambulances that will be handed over to the department by the end of November 2023.

Of the 32 new ambulances, eThekwini will be receiving 5 new ambulances. The new additional ambulances will come in handy for the busy festive season.

Emergency medical services for the 2023 festive season

The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal recently launched the 2023 festive season safety plan, which is a collaborative effort by various sector departments towards fighting crime in the province and activation of all relevant departments to ensure safety, including deployment of Emergency Medical Services facilities in high accident zones identified by road safety authorities and the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) in all of the Province's 11 Districts.

As part of this plan, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health will ensure the provision of emergency medical services along major arterial routes in KwaZulu-Natal over the Festive Season for the period of 13 December 2023 to 17 January 2024.

The plan includes Aeromedical services. The department has a fully functional aeromedical service, which is provided by a panel of three service providers who are contracted to the department and are able to transport any eligible patient, including women, children and neonates. The aeromedical service is a provincial resource that is available to all districts, rendered based on demand. The aeromedical service protocol is in place and services will be available as per the need.

KZN MEC for Health Ms Nomagugu Simelane will unveil this EMS festive season provincial plan before the end of November 2023.

The KZN Department of Health therefore wishes to allay all fears that might have been caused by media reports, and will endeavour to respond timeously to all emergency calls at any given time.

In the same breath, we wish to urge members of the public to conduct themselves responsibly and minimise risks by ensuring that they do not drink and drive, or venture out into the streets while under the influence of alcohol. They are also urged to steer clear of potential conflict situations. Those who are on chronic treatment are urged to take their medication as prescribed. Pregnant women are urged to attend their antenatal clinics as scheduled, and not venture into areas that are far from healthcare facilities while they are due to deliver.

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This page last edited on 14 November, 2023

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