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Minister mans call-centre

The Western Cape minister of health, Nomafrench Mbombo, recently got behind the switchboard herself at the Tygerberg Hospital Emergency Medical Services (EMS) call centre, to get a taste of what these government employees deal with on a day-to-day basis.

The visit was part of the government’s improvement plan for EMS, that will soon be implemented, Nomawethu Sbukwana, spokesperson, says.

“This visit comes after the minister noticed that in the last four years there had been a significant drop in the performance of emergency medical services.

“In 2016 EMS reached about 61,7% of all urban priority one cases. They were reached within 15 minutes. In 2018 and 2019 this number dropped to 46,8%,” Sbukwana says.

The minister said that there are numerous reasons for the decline in performance. These include attacks on ambulances and an increase of violence in communities. The consequences of these are felt by EMS staff who have reported increasing levels of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as by patients who have to wait long for ambulances, especially in the so called red zone areas.

“It is exactly in these danger areas where the need for EMS is the highest.

“The poor response time is most severely felt by the most vulnerable, such as pregnant women who have to wait long for ambulances or pensioners who suffer heart attacks,” Sbukwana, says.

Minister Mbombo indicated that in order to address this problem effectively, the department needs to embark on a multi-prong strategy that includes a whole-of-society approach, community engagement, improved efficiency and investment.

Mbombo adds that the department had set itself ambitious targets to improve the performance of the EMS and that she believes that these targets will address critical service delivery for all residents in the Western Cape.

“As a department, we have identified five key strategies that are critical in addressing EMS challenges. These include mitigation of social determinants; service redesign; leadership; governance; peoples management and a corporate support strategy.

“The minister believes that with this the department will be able to address all these challenges,” Sbukwana says.

The visit took place on Monday 30 September.

“This was her first visit to the EMS and she will continue with it.”

On the day Mbombo took and directed calls that came through on the emergency helpline.

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