Latest health department mess a real shocker

The Eastern Cape’s ambulance dispatch lines are down due to the health department’s non-payment to the service provider
NO REPLY: The Eastern Cape’s ambulance dispatch lines are down due to the health department’s non-payment to the service provider

Once again, the sick and the dying are paying the price for a government department’s incompetence.

It beggars belief that the Eastern Cape health department has failed to pay the service provider for the ambulance emergency lines, with the provider eventually pulling the plug on the system last week. 

The entire province is affected, with none of the lines operational.

Shame on those in charge of the department for allowing this to happen.

The lines were disconnected on Tuesday and staff are using their cellphones to handle some of the medical distress calls.

In the meantime, private ambulance services are being inundated with pleas for assistance from those unable to access the government service.

However, there is only so much they can do as their paying clients come first.

The department’s response to the debacle is shocking.

While acknowledging awareness of the situation, the health MEC’s spokesperson said the department was “engaging with the service provider” and had “committed to settling the debt at the beginning of the next financial year [beginning of April]”.

He said he hoped the lines would be up “soon”.

What a facile response.

This is an emergency service. It should never have got to the point where the lines were cut for nonpayment.

However, as they were disconnected, the department’s immediate next step should have been to find the money by hook or by crook to settle the debt and get the service back up and running again.

Lives depend on it.

The department’s ineptitudes are well-documented. 

Five months ago, its failure to renew licences led to the EMS call centre telephone lines going down. 

Laughably, the call centre was established as a link between the department and residents with the aim of providing prompt responses and solutions to service delivery complaints such as ambulance delays and long queues at hospitals.

Nonpayment has also resulted in providers threatening to stop the supply of critical items such as oxygen and other things.

These failures are compounded by ongoing ambulance and staff shortages, crumbling facilities and financial challenges, among other issues.

The people who suffer the most are the poor, those without medical aids who are totally reliant on government services.

And they are tired of platitudes and empty promises.

What they want to see is someone step up and actually do something to fix this very broken department.



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