EMS still in crisis mode

Karen de Kock, MPL

DA Northern Cape – Provincial Spokesperson of Health

The Democratic Alliance is worried about the ongoing state of emergency medical services (EMS) in the Northern Cape and will ask the department to give a full presentation on EMS to the legislature’s portfolio committee and to explain why the challenges in this sector persist. This comes after a sick Kimberley man died whilst waiting for more than three hours for an ambulance to arrive at his Galeshewe home on Sunday.

Staffing of EMS in the Northern Cape remains a serious problem, with the department currently being short of 1100 EMS personnel required to meet the targeted staff number of 1800. As a result, EMS is not functioning optimally, ambulances are not able to attend to the sick and injured in good time, and single crew ambulances are still the norm and not the exception.

For a number of years already, the DA has highlighted this life and death issue, raising the matter in portfolio committee meetings, writing to MEC Mxolisa Sokatsha and asking parliamentary questions. In 2011, Sokatsha, admitted that EMS had reached a critical stage. He further went on to blame a lack of funds for this dilemma, when in fact the actual cause of the EMS crisis was due to the department’s dismal performance in terms of financial management, actual performance output, non-compliance to various legislation, as well as disregard for warnings and suggestions as made by the Democratic Alliance to improve service delivery. Two years later, nothing much has changed, with the department having failed to as yet take control of this situation.

The mere training of a handful of staff members to the level of Intermediate Life Support every year, simply won’t cut it. The establishment of a new control room also won’t make much difference if there aren’t enough EMS personnel to provide a service. Instead, the DA is of the view that the department has to take urgent steps to look at the real reasons why there is such a massive shortage of human resources in this field.

Response time is crucial to recovery. In the emergency response world, the first hour after an incident takes place is known as the “golden hour”, as it is of life saving importance. And if critical care is not administered within the golden hour, the victim’s chances of survival are greatly diminished. In this regard, the department has blood on its hands and it is the people of this province who have to pay the biggest price for the situation that the province finds itself in are sick and injured members of the public.