South Africa needs at least 3 400 more ambulances

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Haseena Ismail MP

South Africa has a shortage of 3 401 ambulances. Of the 3 342 ambulances we do have, 750 cannot currently be used due to lack of maintenance or accidents.

This dangerous state of affairs was revealed by the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, in answer to a written parliamentary question from the DA.

The DA has had a number of complaints from communities all across the country of emergency medical services (EMS) being slow to respond to calls or never arriving – some families have lost loved ones that could very well have been saved had an ambulance arrived in time. The slew of articles written just this year indicates just how pervasive the problem has become.

What is particularly concerning is that 131 ambulances is out of service due to accidents, and that 383 accidents have already occurred this year, with some of such nature that it warranted disciplinary procedures and final written warnings.

While it is good to see that there is consequence management, it is worrying to note that Limpopo had 56 accidents this year, but not a single form of disciplinary action had been instituted. The lack of proper consequence management in the Department of Health was highlighted by the Auditor-General in his annual report.

It is no surprise that communities are scared and angry – they do not know whether they will be assisted should a medical emergency befall them. And the communities that are hardest hit are those that cannot afford private medical care or are so rural that they are reliant upon provincial public health services like ambulances.

Not only are the shortage of EMS vehicles a current headache and danger, should the NHI Bill be pushed through Parliament the impact on the already overburdened public health system will be severe.

1 685 people lost their lives in road accidents during the 2021 festive season. How many could have been saved had the country’s EMS been fully capacitated?