South Africa News

Limpopo’s COVID-19 fight hampered by lack of ambulances

Limpopo provincial health has a total of 280 ambulances but of the total, 80% of them have recorded more than 200 000km on the clock.

The majority of these ambulances are not durable enough to carry the day-to-day transportation of the sick from and to health institutions such as hospitals, clinics, and health centres.

The province is mostly rural and about 80% of its six million population are poor people, mostly blacks, living in far-flung rural villages or farm dwellings. These are some of the many Limpopo families relying on the government’s emergency ambulance services to transport them from their homes to hospitals.

Speaking to The Citizen yesterday, health MEC Phophi Ramathuba said the province had a total of 289 ambulances operating in the province’s five regions of Mopani, Capricorn, Vhembe, Sekhukhune and Waterberg.

“But of the total, 241 of them have recorded above 200 000km on the clock and not durable for the day-to-day transportation of our sick to hospitals, clinics and other health centres across the province.

“Worse, in the 241, only 166 of them are roadworthy,” she said. Ramathuba added the number of ambulances, both new and old, were not enough for a population of a province as big as Limpopo.

“With the current rate, we need about R89.6 million to buy at least 100 new ambulances for all the villages and regions of the province. Only if I can have that, I will sleep like a baby because I have the interest of all at heart,” she said.

Yesterday the MEC spent the better part of the day handing over 20 new ambulances to the Emergency Medical Services division in Polokwane.

The glittering event, which sparked wild jubilations in most parts of the province, was in line with the recommendations made by the department under Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha during the State of the Province Address and the departmental budget votes recently.

The jubilant MEC said during the handover of the new ambulances, five of them were Covid-19 response ambulances. She said the department would buy another 25 ambulances before the end of the financial year.

She added that the new ambulances had cost her department R18.1 million from a R24 million budget set aside for the procurement this financial year.

Ramathuba said the new ambulances were fitted with high-flow oxygen units that would assist a lot in terms of emergencies.

She claimed the new fleet would go a long way in assisting people with Covid-19 infections, who needed emergency transportation, especially as the country was experiencing the third wave of the pandemic.

“Our experiences during the second wave informed this decision where patients with difficulty in breathing and having low saturation were struggling.

“This service will assist the department to be able to improve the ability to come to the aid of people in emergency situations within the golden hour, including in far-flung areas where the terrain is tough,” she said to the delight of nurses and other guests present at the event.


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