'New ambulances will cut back response time'

Frank Maponya

Frank Maponya

Limpopo citizens have been given a grand Christmas present -following the provincial government's purchase of new ambulances.

The province's health and social development department this week unveiled 181 new ambulances "to improve emergency services".

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) previously had a fleet of 130 ambulances.

The Health Department also purchased 12 paramedic response vehicles, 20 scene management vehicles and 10 rescue vehicles, all fully equipped.

"The department remains committed to the objective of providing quality healthcare to our people," said MEC Seaparo Sekoati at a media launch held in Polokwane on Monday.

He said due to the increase in the number of ambulance stations, personnel, vehicles and equipment, the average EMS response time had improved from 40 minutes in urban zones and 60 minutes in rural areas, to 27 minutes and 47 minutes respectively.

An "optimisation plan" will now increase personnel from 600 to 3500, ambulances from 130 to 550, and ambulance stations from 20 to 51.

"The budget for 2006-07 is R270million," Sekoati said.

"This increased budget has been allocated to begin . the optimisation plan which will eventually result in a response time of 15 minutes for calls in urban areas and 40 minutes in rural areas, which corresponds to the national norm."

At the function he also introduced the new uniform that will be worn by EMS staff members, which is a white shirt with an EMS logo and navy blue trousers.

"It is more professional and allows easier identification of emergency care practitioners," he said.