Only 48 functional ambulances for nearly 5 million people in Mpumalanga

Issued by DA Mpumalanga Provincial Leader –
09 Jun 2023 in News

The DA will write to the Health Ombudsman, Professor Taole Mokoena, requesting an investigation into the Mpumalanga Department of Health for not adhering to national guidelines concerning Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the province. 

According to the department’s 4th quarter report of 2022/23, they have more broken ambulances working ones. They currently have 158 ambulances, but only 60 are in running condition. However, out of the 60 that are in running condition, 12 are not used due to staff shortages. 

This means that Mpumalanga has only 48 fully functional ambulances for a population of over 4.4 million; meaning that there’s only 1 ambulance serving 91 666 people. This is in contravention of the National Health Guidelines which regulate that there should be at least one (1) ambulance for every 10 000 people. The guidelines also state that there must be at least 95.9 registered emergency care personnel per 100 000 population, but Mpumalanga currently has an estimated 13.5 EMS personnel per 100 000 (according to the department’s reports). 

The department’s 2022/2023 reports also show that they have 141 posts for EMS shift leaders, however, due to budget constraints, these posts will not be filled. 

In last year’s budget reading, Provincial Health MEC, Sasekani Manzini, stated that R50 million will be set aside for computer-aided dispatch (CAD), a comprehensive EMS system needed according to the National Health regulations. However, the department decided to spend R33.4 million on a platform Vodacom app which is not an emergency management system but does call tracking and dispatch modules. 

They mentioned that R25 million will be spent in the new financial year to establish a centralised emergency communication centre. That remains to be seen. 

The department’s decision to deviate from the National Health Regulations will put more lives in Mpumalanga at risk.  Currently, there is also no system in place to monitor response times in rural and urban areas, yet the department reports this target as 100% achieved. 

Emergency care is viewed as a fundamental human right in South Africa’s constitution, EMS and its personnel have been subjected to long-term neglect. We therefore urge the Health Ombudsman to investigate the norms and standards that are not being adhered to.