In the midst of a vicious third wave, Gauteng’s ambulance services are failing to reach critically ill patients.
A number of patients in Brakpan Old Location in Ekurhuleni have died while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. The ward councillor in the area says the problem is not unique to Brakpan but affects the entire metro.
Brakpan community members say they wait for hours for an ambulance to arrive. They say three people died in a single week, after ambulances failed to arrive. The ward councillor puts the number of deaths at 10.
“I tried calling an ambulance when my neighbour was sick and when it took too long to arrive, I walked to the hospital. The hospital told me to return home because you cannot physically come to the hospital to fetch an ambulance. I ended up going to the police station and that is when the ambulance came,” alleges one community member.
“The problem started when mkhulu was sick. Two people have since died while waiting for an ambulance and more recently the gogo that stays down the road also died while waiting for an ambulance. There is another man who died and his body spent more than 24 hours while waiting for an undertaker,” adds another resident.
It’s alleged the delays started after emergency medical services were moved from local government to Gauteng health departments.
The move is said to have overwhelmed the province as many ambulances remain out of service due to a failure to renew operating licenses.
“This is not a situation that only the community of Brakpan is facing. It’s a situation where the Ekurhuleni at large is finding itself in. The ambulance services have deteriorated to the extent that some would say that it has basically collapsed and the community has started to put the blame on mayor Masina and his administration,” says DA ward councillor, Brandon Pretorious.
The Gauteng health department says it’s aware of the challenges and is looking to work with the private sector to resolve the problem.
Health MEC in the province says due to the pressures on the service brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, they will issue municipalities with temporary licenses to operate ambulances.
“So now we have also issued temporary licence to municipalities because of COVID of the city of Tshwane and the other city that has applied is the city of Ekurhuleni. Combined, we will be able to respond to our communities on time. I just wanted to clarify that. We are working o it and we are aware of that this is a challenge,” says MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi.
Mokgethi has blamed the delays on what she terms a referral system.