By Harold McGluwa MPL, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Health:
Yet another accident involving a state ambulance has highlighted the need for the Northern Cape Health Department to urgently speed up professional driver training.
An accident involving an ambulance on the N12 on Monday night, as was reported in the media, claimed the life of the driver of a Renault sedan and saw two additional occupants in the motor vehicle, as well as three occupants in the ambulance, sustain injuries.
Accidents involving ambulances have become a real problem in the Northern Cape. It is a problem that is not only costing the embattled health department money but also lives.
In the beginning of the year, the health department acknowledged that it was experiencing a downfall with ambulance coverage due to ambulance breakdowns and motor vehicle accidents.
It later also came to light that as many as eleven ambulances in the Northern Cape were involved in accidents between April and June this year. This translates into an unacceptably high ratio of almost four ambulance accidents in the province per month.
Ambulance accidents have a domino effect on health services. Aside from directly putting the lives of health staff and patients at risk, they also adversely affect emergency response times due to a reduced number of operational vehicles.
The health department has previously indicated that it intends sourcing funding for professional driver training for drivers of ambulances and patient transporters. Considering, however, that the department also intends sourcing funding for countless other progammes for which it currently has budgetary shortfalls, due to its own mismanagement of finances and inability to curb accruals, the hopes that it will indeed acquire additional funding are bleak.
The only real solution is for the department to tighten its belt and reprioritize spending on essential services instead of squandering millions of rands on dubious tenders and legal costs as a result of poor contract management.
In the meantime, the DA has today written to Health MEC Mac Jack, requesting that the department places the spotlight on health services and that it shifts funds from its burdensome administrative processes to ensure that driver training is conducted as a matter of urgency.
The people of this province deserve a safe and efficient emergency service that prevents the unnecessary taking of lives.