Ambulance crisis looms in Joburg

The city's ambulance service is also strained, with only 60 of its 101 ambulances working.
The city's ambulance service is also strained, with only 60 of its 101 ambulances working.
Image: 123RF/ Pumidol Leelerdsakulvong

The City of Johannesburg's emergency medical service - already critically constrained by a dearth of staff, emergency vehicles and resources - may have another battle on hand.

Since 2006, the city has run an ambulance service on behalf of the Gauteng provincial government for an annual fee of R130m.

But in April, the provincial government announced it was pulling its funding and support as part of the "provincialisation" of the EMS, taking with it the department of health licence that the city was using to operate their emergency vehicles.

The move comes just before tightened licensing regulations, enforced by the department, come into effect on June 1.

Any operator found guilty of contravening the regulations "faces a fine not exceeding R500,000 and or imprisonment not exceeding five years".

The decision also comes as the city, which spans 334km and is home to 28 fire stations, still operates with just 13 fire engines.

Cancelled contracts, alleged to have been mired in allegations of corruption, have left the fire service limping.

A tender to supply the trucks was advertised and awarded, but in March, days before the announcement of the winning bid, the supplier pulled out. The process will now start afresh.

The ambulance service is also flagging, with only 60 of its 101 ambulances working, Michael Sun, MMC for public safety in the City of Johannesburg, admitted earlier.

He said the province's move to pull its funding and licence came as a surprise.

"City of Johannesburg EMS requested that the provincial government provide certain documentation - including the decision to provincialise - in order to make an informed decision. No documentation has been received as to date.

"The city is looking at the possibility of operating its fully owned and licensed ambulance service. In such event, the COJ will be applying for registration with various authorities such as the national department of health and Board of Healthcare Funders.

"We will continue to engage . and ensure that . possible disruptions of the services are minimised and the process made known to the public."

Gauteng health spokesperson Lesemang Matuka undertook to respond but never did. National health spokesperson Popo Maja referred queries back to Matuka.

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