259 Ambulance accidents in Gauteng

Gauteng’s emergency response times to save lives are hindered by a high accident rate, with 259 ambulances involved in accidents in 2020 and 2021.

This information was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, R8.3 million was spent on accident repairs, and 40 disciplinary hearings were held concerning these accidents, which resulted in final written warnings for misconduct.

I am greatly concerned that more than one in five of Gauteng’s 1221 emergency ambulances were involved in accidents over a two-year period.

Some of these ambulances were written off, and others were off the road for a long time because of slow repairs.

Currently, 140 ambulances are not operational, which leads to lives being lost due to slow response times. The department says that these ambulances are not in service because “daily downtime that sees vehicles taken for scheduled services, and unplanned (breakdowns) repairs and maintenance.”

According to international standards, Gauteng should have one ambulance for every 10 000 people as well as 10% more for a buffer, which amounts to 1795 ambulances.

We are therefore short of about 600 ambulances to provide a decent emergency service.

Better management is needed to cut down on reckless ambulance driving and to ensure that people needing emergency care are reached as soon as possible.

Lives are lost with 106 out of 257 Gauteng province ambulances broken

Lives are being lost in Gauteng as 106 (41%) out of 257 provincial emergency ambulances are broken.

This appalling information is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, only 151 provincial ambulances are operational, and only the DA-run City of Tshwane has applied for a temporary operating licence for its own ambulances.

The Gauteng Health Department held a meeting in January this year with municipal Emergency Ambulance Services (EMS) managers and it was agreed that municipal EMS may apply for operating licences, but neither Johannesburg nor Ekurhuleni applied despite previously running large ambulance fleets.

The root of the problem is that the Department is provincialising the emergency ambulance service, and this has led to the withdrawal of ambulances in two of the three metro cities.

I distrust the Department’s claim that 94% of Priority 1 cases are responded to within 30 minutes as I often get complaints about ambulances that take hours to arrive or don’t come at all.

For instance, here is a WhatsApp message I received on Tuesday this week from a resident in Eldorado Park:

“Guys our people are screwed in eldos really. On Tuesday we phoned for an ambulance they didn’t show up kept phoning no ambulance available you can take the the person with your own transport cause you get showed away.

Yesterday we were phoning again for an ambulance @6pm they kept telling us they own the way about 10 people phoned no ambulance, my uncle then passed away still waiting for an ambulance that came around @ around past 10 after we had to make a private call when they arrived they didn’t wanna get out to come and declare.”

The world standard is 80% of Priority 1 calls responded to within 15 minutes, but the Department has arbitrarily changed this to a 30 minute standard.

It is unclear why the Department now says that they only have 151 working ambulances for the province when they said earlier this year they had 1244 ambulances with 350 out of action because of maintenance and repairs.

The reality is that Gauteng residents cannot depend on an ambulance arriving in good time in an emergency, and the situation has worsened with the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is inexcusable that Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni have not applied for a temporary licence to continue running ambulances that are desperately needed to save lives.

The way forward is to speed up the repair of broken ambulances and to ensure that all unused city ambulances are put back on the road to help people in medical emergencies.

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Lives can be saved if Joburg and Ekurhuleni restart their ambulances

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the news that the Gauteng Health Department will issue temporary licences to Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni to operate emergency ambulances that were halted because of its policy to take over all ambulances in the province.

Lives can be saved if these two cities act speedily to restart ambulance services as this is desperately needed in the face of the raging Covid-19 epidemic.

Every day I get calls from people who have called an ambulance that does not arrive for many hours, sometimes after the ill person has died.

It is extremely unfortunate that Johannesburg halted their ambulance service on 11 June this year and Ekurhuleni grounded its ambulances in the middle of last year.

Only DA-run Tshwane council applied to extend their licence so they continue to run 70 city ambulances at this critical time.

Although Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni have not budgeted for their ambulances they should use emergency funds to get them going as soon as possible.

Every effort should be made to ensure that every available ambulance is on the road to save lives.

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Lives at risk as Joburg ambulances stop operating

Lives are at risk as the city of Johannesburg suspended its emergency ambulance service on Friday last week because of vehicle insurance and medical supply problems.

This means that about 40 fewer ambulances will be operating as the Gauteng Health Department has botched its takeover of all ambulance services in the province.

Before the provincial takeover Johannesburg could field more than 90 ambulances, which shows the decline in the local service.

The provincialisation of ambulances has now led to the disuse of ambulances in two of the three metro cities in Gauteng.

Only the DA-run City of Tshwane is still providing an ambulance service as Tshwane MMC for Community Safety Karen Meyer announced last week that its temporary ambulance operating licence has been extended until the end of the year.

Unlike Tshwane, the ANC-run city of Ekurhuleni has not applied for a license to run their own ambulances, which are lying idle as emergency response times plummet.

I am increasingly getting complaints from desperate people who have called an ambulance that does not arrive in good time.

How can it be that we have idle ambulances in two Gauteng cities as Covid-19 infections increase alarmingly?

The collapse of Johannesburg’s ambulance service comes as residents reel from power and water cuts due to years of poor maintenance.

The provincial government should halt its provincialisation of ambulances, and ensure that all available ambulances and personnel are used to save lives in medical emergencies.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

ANC in denial about poor ambulance service in Tshwane

The Gauteng Health Department and the ANC in Tshwane are misleading residents about the poor state of ambulance services as a result of provincialisation, and are making baseless accusations that the DA wishes to profit from a private emergency service provider.

Residents frequently complain about slow ambulance response times, and these have worsened since the City of Tshwane had to stop using its own ambulances because the provincial government failed to extend the city’s operating licence for emergency services.

The City of Tshwane has responded to about 37 322 emergency calls since July 2018 when the province withdrew from its agency agreement with the city because of provincialisation.

But the city’s 73 ambulances and 24 other emergency vehicles now stand idle because it is not legal to operate without a licence from the province.

It is estimated that the city has about 770 000 citizens who qualify for free treatment and transport by the City Emergency Medical Services. This includes the unemployed, pensioners, children under six years of age, and maternity, tuberculosis and terminally ill patients

I have written to Premier David Makhura to intervene urgently to ensure that an operating licence is issued to ensure that the city’s emerging vehicles can be used.

He needs to concede that the provincialisation of ambulances has been poorly handled as it has led to the disuse of ambulances owned by the three metros in Gauteng.

Unlike Tshwane, the ANC-run city of Ekurhuleni has not applied for a licence to run their ambulances, and response times there have plummeted.

Only 41 Johannesburg city ambulances still operate whereas there used to be more than 90 ambulances previously.

It is essential that all available ambulances and personnel are used to provide a decent emergency service, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Gauteng Health should issue ambulance licence to Tshwane urgently

I am most concerned by the Gauteng Health Department’s delay in issuing a licence to Tshwane metro council to operate ambulances, which has forced the city to cease ambulance operations.

According to Alderman Karen Mayer, Tshwane MMC for Community Safety and Emergency Services, ambulances have ceased operating in Tshwane due to the failure by provincial government to honour an agreement to extend their emergency services operating license.

The city cannot continue the service because of the legal liability of operating without a valid licence.

This unfortunate situation has arisen because of the provincialisation of ambulances which has not been handled well.

Meanwhile, Tshwane residents will suffer delays because the city’s emergency call centre will be relaying calls to the provincial emergency medical services call centre to be processed.

I have raised this matter with Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi, and I hope it is speedily resolved with the issuance of the licence.

Ambulance crisis in Gauteng

I am concerned that the rushed provincialisation of ambulance services in Gauteng has led to disruptions of the vital role of ambulances in combatting the Covid-19 crisis and responding to other medical emergencies.

The provincialisation was finalized for all three metro councils at the end of last month. Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni were running their own ambulances before the Gauteng Health Department took over this function.

Johannesburg’s Emergency Management Services (EMS) have now dropped from 60 ambulances to 20 ambulances on a shift. These ambulances are purely focused on emergency calls whereas the 45 provincial ambulances in Johannesburg do both inter-facility transfers and medical emergencies.

In Ekurhuleni all their ambulances stopped running when Gauteng EMS took over on 1 July 2020.

The situation in Tshwane is also serious as the city announced in a circular dated 6 July that it would “temporarily cease to render ambulance services” and would divert all emergency calls to the provincial call centre at 10177. This has put out of action about 300 qualified staff and 78 ambulances.

I am already picking up tragic cases where ambulances take half a day to respond to an emergency call. This is further endangering lives during the Covid-19 pandemic when ambulances are increasingly needed for transportation of infected people to quarantine and treatment facilities.

The Gauteng Health Department has botched the provincialisation of ambulances and should urgently make arrangements to ensure that all city ambulances are in operation at this critical time.

Gauteng Health Department pays R7.4 million to fishy ambulance company

by Jack Bloom MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

The Gauteng Health Department has paid R7.4 million to Buthelezi EMS, a controversial ambulance company that is being investigated concerning alleged overcharging and tender irregularities in the Free State and North West provinces.

According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, although there was no contract awarded to Buthelezi EMS, “the Departmental Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) granted permission to utilize the services of this company pending the finalization of the tender process.”

She says that the use of this company was done by “request for quotations, as there was no contract or tender in place.”

In the last four years Buthelezi EMS has been commissioned 64 times for ambulance services, which cost a total of R7.4 million.

National Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has asked the Treasury Department to investigate the procurement of ambulance services from Buthelezi EMS, which has been awarded large contracts in the Free State and North West.

In the Free State, Buthelezi EMS got more than R15 million from two backdated price increases from the Free State Health Department.

This company, operating under various related names, has held a contract with the North West Department since March 2016, and was being paid between R600,000 and R1-million a day to mostly deliver inter-facility hospital transfers in the province.

I am concerned that Gauteng is using this company without going out to tender and could also be getting poor value for money.

I will write to the National Treasury to include Gauteng in its investigation about the appointment and pricing activities of Buthelezi EMS.

84 Broken Ambulances in Gauteng

Emergency Ambulances

84 out of 667 emergency ambulances in Gauteng are currently not operational, and R88 million has been spent on repairing ambulances involved in accidents in the past three years.

These figures are revealed in a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mahlangu, emergency ambulances were involved in 256 major accidents from 2011 to March this year.

Last year, it cost R37.8 million to repair damaged ambulances, and R31.5 million in 2013 and R19.4 million in 2012.

Better Management & Training

The high number of accidents and rising cost of repairs is of great concern.

At any one time, about one in eight ambulances is off the road because they are in a workshop.

A large number are too damaged to be repaired, and are sold at auctions for scrap metal. The wrecks can be seen at the grounds of the Lebone College in Pretoria.

According to international norms, Gauteng should have 1200 ambulances to service our population of 12 million people, but we only have 787 which includes 120 private ambulances.

Better management and training of drivers is needed to ensure that as many ambulances as possible are on the roads to save the lives of emergency patients.


Media enquiries:

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health

082 333 4222

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