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The Heath Department has embarked on a R286million initiative to modernise and enhance emergency medical services (EMS) throughout the country.
Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said this when she launched a modern emergency medical service station in Bela-Bela, in Limpopo, yesterday. She said part of the money was from the equitable share fund from the country's nine provinces.
Tshabalala-Msimang said the money would also be used to modernise 18 communication centres in different parts of the country as well as implement aero-medical services in the Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo.
She said that the funds would also be used to expand emergency-care training at provincial colleges.
Tshabalala-Msimang said her department had procured 900 EMS vehicles for all the nine provinces during this financial year. The vehicles include 715 ambulances, 78 response vehicles, 37 rescue and 79 support vehicles.
Addressing a huge crowd at the Bela-Bela Showgrounds yesterday, Tshabalala-Msimang said EMS were recognised as a key component within the health care delivery system.
"Emergency medical services also play an important role in the transfer of patients from one hospital to another for a higher level of treatment.
"Emergency services are seen as a comprehensive system comprising various elements such as emergency-care practitioners, emergency physicians, specialised vehicles and equipment, computerised call-centres with computerised communication centres and training," she said.
Tshabalala-Msimang said over the past few years the demand for EMS had increased considerably.
"In the last financial year we encountered 2,7million calls from individuals. This shows beyond doubt how important these services are to the lives of our people," she said.
Tshabalala-Msimang said the need for ambulances and other emergency vehicles was paramount this festive season.
Her words were echoed by Limpopo MEC for roads and transport Justice Pitso, who warned that police would be tough on motorists who breached road rules. He also urged motorists not to drink and drive.
Limpopo MEC for health, Seaparo Sekoati, said his department had 41 EMS stations throughout the province. He said of this, 13 were being modernised.