The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape is concerned about the Northern Cape Health Department's lack of urgency to operationalise 38 ambulances, 10 patient transporters and five obstetric ambulances that were bought and delivered in 2015.
According to Isak Fritz, Member of the Provincial Legislation and the DA Northern Cape Spokesperson on Health, the vehicles, that still need to be converted and fitted with the necessary medical equipment, have been gathering dust for the past two years, while Emergency Medical Services struggle to achieve adequate emergency response times due to a shortage of vehicles.
Quarterly reports have noted a decline in calls in urban areas within the required 15-minute time frame as a direct result of a decline in operational vehicles. This lack of operational vehicles has been further aggravated by the high accident rate of ambulances in the Northern Cape.
The lack of specialized obstetric ambulances further contributes to the high maternal and neonatal death rates in the province.
Following a briefing by the Health Department on Tuesday 28 March 2017, it came to light that the conversion process was delayed after corruption had been uncovered in the tender process. According to the department, a contract was entered into by the department for the conversion of ambulances, even though the conversion process had never been put out on tender.
The department indicated that they are now following proper processes and that progress is being made towards converting the vehicles.
The DA appreciates the department's honesty and the fact that they have regularized the contract. However, the DA remains concerned by the health department’s nonchalant attitude towards such high scale corruption that is literally robbing sick people of medical care.
The DA is of the view that the operationalisation of the stagnating emergency vehicles must be prioritized for the sake of all the people in the province who are dependent on ambulance services to receive life-saving health care.
The DA further believes that the corrupt officials, who tried to broker deals for the conversion of ambulances for their own benefit at the cost of service delivery, must be criminally dealt with.
The DA will continue to monitor the matter and probe the department regarding the disciplinary steps that have been taken against those whose selfish actions have inhibited the efficient functioning of emergency services in the Northern Cape.
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