by Dr Isak Fritz MPL – DA Northern Cape Spokesperson of Health
Date: 02 June 2017
Type: Press Statement
The DA will report the Northern Cape Health Department to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), as we believe that their dire mismanagement of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the province is placing patients’ lives at risk.
This comes after 17-year old Justin Rinkwest was denied adequate healthcare services due to a series of blunders involving the lack of available state ambulances. He is currently in a life-threatening condition after being involved in a serious accident just outside of Springbok on Wednesday evening.
Justin was stabilised at Springbok Hospital on Wednesday night, after which he was transferred to Upington’s Dr Harry Surtie Hospital where he arrived at about 2:30pm on Thursday afternoon. A specialist diagnosed him with a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain after a CT scan was performed. He instructed that Justin be urgently transferred to Kimberley Hospital, where he needed to undergo an urgent operation.
Justin, however, had to wait for over seven hours for an ambulance to be dispatched more than 400 kilometres from De Aar to Upington, so that he could be transported to Kimberley. And then, just 70 kilometres outside of Upington, on the road to Olifantshoek, the ambulance broke down.
Justin spent the next four hours in the ambulance with a nurse, along the side of the road, until the ambulance was finally towed back to Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington.
After intervention by myself, the hospital placed him in ICU, while he waited more than five hours for the state to arrange a private ambulance to transport him to Kimberley. It is believed that this further delay was caused by an official first having to wait for three quotes from private ambulance services, as per supply chain management protocols.
The DA is outraged by the lack of urgency displayed by the Health Department to get Justin to Kimberley. In the event of an emergency, such as Justin’s, every minute counts towards his survival and his recovery. It cannot be denied that Justin’s right to life has been severely compromised by a poorly organised health system.
The DA has many questions regarding the availability of government ambulances. Aside from reporting this matter to the SAHRC, we will also ask the Health Department to come clean on the true state of EMS in the province.
According to the Health Department, there are currently 111 operational state ambulances in the Northern Cape. It is therefore unfathomable that there was not a single available ambulance in Upington, which is home to the province’s only regional hospital. The Department must provide a clear breakdown of how many of the 111 ambulances are really operational, tell us exactly where these ambulances are based and present the reasons as to why there was not a single available ambulance in Upington on the day in question.
We also want the Department to provide us with the maintenance plan for its ambulances – getting stuck is something that can be prevented with routine maintenance.
The Department further needs to account for the untimely delay in the conversion of 38 ambulances, 10 patient transporters and five obstetric ambulances that were bought and delivered in 2015, but are still not operational.
We further want to know from the Health Department about its aero-medical services, whether these are operational and when these services may be used for emergencies.
The DA will not allow the Health Department to pull the wool over our eyes regarding the state of health care in the Northern Cape. We will continue to pursue this matter and await the findings of the SAHRC. What the Department tells us in portfolio committee meetings and what we see on the ground does not add up – it’s high time that they be held accountable.
Dr Isak Fritz MPL
DA Northern Cape Spokesperson of Health
083 395 2737
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387