The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers in Khayelitsha have expressed concerns about their poor working conditions as well as the lack of black district managers, particularly ethnic Africans .
The workers staged a protest outside the Khayelitsha District Hospital on Thursday April 14, claiming that not a single hospital in the province had an African district manager though there were individuals who were qualified and competent to do the job.
Mzukisi Mabhengu, chairperson of Joint Shop Stewards Committee for Emergency Medical Services, told Vukani that Africans were not appointed to senior positions and they believed it was because of their skin colour. He claimed some district managers had been appointed despite them not meeting the basic appointment criteria.
Mr Mabhengu also claimed some of the ambulances operating in Khayelitsha and other parts of the province did not have incubators and ventilators.
He said at times they work without infusion pumps and consumable stock, which affected their efforts to save people’s lives.
“There are some requirements which an ambulance is required to meet before it could be approved, such as basic life support, advanced life support and intermediate life support. Currently the ambulances do not meet these requirement and they only meet the (requirements for administering) basic life support, which is just above the first aid level. How are we supposed to save lives if we are not fully equipped to do the job?” he asked.
Mr Mabhengu said they were shocked when the department installed a Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) in the ambulances at a cost of R250 million while the ambulances were in such a dire state. He said the money could have been used to improve the state of the ambulances or to employ more staff.
“That MDT thing is only used to communicate with the communication centre. It does not play any significant role in ensuring that the lives of people are rescued. It also doesn’t improve their working conditions. It is a thing that lures criminals to rob them more as it is installed in the dashboard and looks like a tablet. Remember we work in thug-infested areas,” he said.
Mr Mabhengu said they had also raised their concerns about their safety but management seemed not to have any solutions.
Recently a crew was robbed at gunpoint in Crossroads, he said.
Mr Mabhengu added that while they were not allowed to protest, they had no choice but to picket because they felt they were being taken for granted. He also said they were often the victims of racism, but were threatened with dismissal if they complained.
“As I’m speaking now, I have been suspended from work because I did not renew my Public Drivers Licence (PDP) in time, but there are other people who are working without PDPs. Normally what they should have done is to place me in the office until I get my PDP just like other people who had been placed in the office until they obtain their PDPs,” he said.
The Department of Health’s principal communication officer for Emergency Medical and Forensic Pathology Services, Robert Daniels, said the workers’ allegations are receiving the attention of senior management due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
“I can only respond as soon as I receive a comment from the directorate and provincial chief of the Western Cape Government Health Emergency Medical Services,” he said.