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.