KZN mercy crew makes history
The Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal has created a female aero-medical service to help with injuries on the roads.
The team swung into action last night and will be on hand to help as motorists head home today after the festive season.
It is the first time South Africa has had an all-female crew to provide emergency aero-medical services for holiday-makers on the road.
The department is working closely with the Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS) and with the Emergency Medical Rescue Service (EMRS).
Pilot Kate Esterhuyse will be flying the helicopter today. Her passengers will be Thembisa Sitsila, head of aero-medical services in the province, Rachel Jooste, from the EMRS, Melissa Finlayson, an advanced life-support paramedic and Lindiwe Simelane, acting chief operations officer.
Simelane said: "It's a first for this industry to have an all-female crew. It's a stressful job, but we are dedicated to saving people's lives."
Simelane said that when there was an accident and a patient needed to be airlifted to hospital time was crucial and the crew worked as a team.
"Weather is often a huge factor, but we rely on the pilot and if she says we can fly we respect her decision," she said.
Sitsila said paramedics needed specialised training before they could join the crew.
"Only critical patients are airlifted to hospital after the doctors have assessed their condition," she said.
Neliswa Nkonyeni, MEC for health, said: "This is a landmark occasion and we would like it to become a regular service in the province."
Roshni Bisetty, of aero-medical logistics support, and Moshni Naidoo, EMRS lecturer and an advanced life-support paramedic, are also part of the team.
Karen Kok is the chief engineer at AMS.