Rise in emergency calls takes toll on Tshwane ambulances

The Gauteng department of health has blamed the deterioration of Tshwane's emergency vehicles on a spike in call-outs in recent months.
The Gauteng department of health has blamed the deterioration of Tshwane's emergency vehicles on a spike in call-outs in recent months.
Image: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

The Gauteng department of health has blamed the recent deterioration of emergency vehicles in Tshwane on a spike in call-outs over the last six months.

This was disclosed by Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to questions by the DA's Jack Bloom in the provincial legislature last month.

Bloom asked several questions relating to the Tshwane emergency medical services (EMS) fleet. He raised concerns about a fleet of scrapped EMS vehicles and wanted to know what the department intended to do with them.

According to Ramokgoba, an increase in call-outs over the last six months has resulted in additional demand in Soshanguve and the rest of the City of Tshwane.

According to data available on the District Health Information System (DHIS), the following number of EMS calls (including inter-hospital facility transfers) were recorded  from January to December 2018, indicating a significant rise over the second half of the year:

  • January: 2,777
  • February: 2,835
  • March: 2,844
  • April: 2,779
  • May: 2,616
  • June: 2,690
  • July: 3,269
  • August: 3,105
  • September: 3,529
  • October: 3,382
  • November: 3,209
  • December: 3,113

Ramokgopa denied that fewer ambulances serviced the area than in 2017. According to her written response, there were 10 ambulances servicing the area in 2017, while in 2018 the area had 11 operational ambulances, one rescue vehicle and one planned patient transporter covering three EMS stations: Soshanguve Block JJ, Odi Hospital and the Dr George Mukhari EMS satelite station. 

She added that the operational staff in the area had increased from 77 in 2017 to 106 in 2018.

Ramokgopa did however admit to a shortage of vehicles. "Gauteng EMS has a shortage of ambulances when one considers the population size of over 14m against a ratio of 1:10,000.

She explained that according to policy, all EMS vehicles with mileages of 200,000km and above must be replaced. "Every vehicle is assessed on its condition and cost of refurbishment within the context of the policy," she said.

Records show that most damaged EMS vehicles were refurbished rather than scrapped.

Fifteen ambulances were written off in 2015, 55 in 2016 and 25 in 2017. The number for 2018 is still to be determined.

In the financial years from 2016 to 2018, 222 ambulances were refurbished for service at a cost of R22m - an average of about R100,000 each.

According to Ramokgopa, a new ambulance costs R810,000.

She said 74 EMS vehicles were stored at the Bronkhorstpruit ambulance station, opposite Bronkhorstpruit Hospital, to be disposed of. "An auction system is one of the ways to dispose [of] the vehicles. Revenue collected will go to the National Treasury pool." 

Bloom also inquired about ambulances allegedly stored on the corner of the M10 and the R573 Moloto Road.

But Ramokgopa said she needed more information because she couldn't locate the said fleet. “An attempt was made to locate the said address provided, but it could not be found on three occasions by assigned officials.  More information is needed," she said.

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