Ambulance arrives five hours late

Nosicelo Mfengu and her child Siphosethu in their Philippi home.

Nosicelo Mfengu says her 18-month-old daughter, Siphosethu, is lucky to be alive and has accused the government ambulance services of negligence after allegedly failing to respond promptly to calls to save the child.

The mother of three said the ambulance only arrived at 5am – more than five hours after the initial call for help.

A visibly upset Ms Mfengu said the child had a nose and mouth bleed around 11.30pm, shortly after she returned from work. Unsure how to deal with the situation, with the assistance of a friend, Aviwe Ntshoko, Ms Mfengu said she called ambulance services.

The first in a series of calls was made at 11.30pm. She called again seven minutes later.

When she called the first time, said Ms Ntshoko, she was told the ambulance was on its way.

At 10 minutes after midnight, she said she got a call indicating that the ambulance was coming. Nearly 30 minutes later, she said, the ambulance had not yet arrived, so she phoned again.

This time she was told the ambulance was “waiting for police escort” and was given a reference number.

“The child’s condition was deteriorating by the minute. We could not sit and relax,” said Ms Ntshoko.

But, she said, the last straw was when they were told to get a car and take the child to Philippi East police station. “We don’t have a car and we can’t go anywhere. There were no taxis around that time,” said Ms Ntshoko.

Fortunately for them, by that time the child’s condition had improved. They were, however, still concerned.

Then, after 5am, the ambulance finally arrived – with a police escort.

She said the staff told her they could not go into the area alone as it was labelled a “red flag” zone. Red flag zones are areas where ambulances are prevented from going in without police escort due to risk associated with such areas.

Ms Mfengu said she was deeply disappointed by the manner in which the matter was handled. “I cannot trust them again,” she said, adding that when she had previously called on the ambulance services, she had not had similar problems.

“This means I must now have money for emergencies so that if something like this happens again, I can hire a car,” she said.

Ms Ntshoko added: “There is no way that an ambulance can wait for police escort from midnight until five,” she said. “They could have requested another vehicle from the neighbouring police stations.”

Robert Danies, spokesperson for emergency services, said the child’s condition was not life-threatening.

“Ambulance 48 was waiting at Nyanga police station for an escort for 3hours due to the fact that the area is a red zone. SAPS then informed AMB48 to report to Phillippi East Police Station because the Nyanga vehicles were now area bound,” he said. He added that Metro Control as well as the dispatcher kept the caller updated.