Only 151 of Gauteng’s 257 ambulances are working. The rest, all 106 of them, are broken. DA health spokesperson in Gauteng Jack Bloom said the “appalling information” was revealed to him by Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to his questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
Bloom said Mokgethi also revealed that only the DA-run City of Tshwane had applied for a temporary operating licence for its own ambulances.
In June, it was revealed that City of Joburg, which is home to about five million people, has suspended its last remaining 40 ambulance services, citing lack of vehicle insurance and pharmaceutical supplies.
The city was running its own ambulance service with a fleet of 100 vehicles until 2018, when it was informed that the province would take over the service, which it had done for many years. This reduced the number of ambulances operated by the city to 40, which have now been withdrawn.
Bloom said the Gauteng Health Department held a meeting in January this year with municipal Emergency Ambulance Services managers. It was agreed that municipal EMS may apply for operating licences.
However, he said, neither Johannesburg nor Ekurhuleni applied, despite previously running large ambulance fleets.
He said the root of the problem was that the department was provincializing the emergency ambulance service and that had 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.
As proof of that, Bloom said he received a WhatsApp on Tuesday from a resident of Eldorado Park who said they called an ambulance but it never showed up. They called again on Wednesday and were told many times that it was on its way but never arrived.
The person said their uncle died while waiting for an ambulance.
“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,” Bloom said.
“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,” he said.
The publication got in touch with the Gauteng Department of Health to find out how long these ambulances had been broken for and why they had not been fixed.
The department did not respond.