Health department hires private ambulances in crisis

The provincial health department has hired private ambulances to service areas around Alice and Fort Beaufort after their emergency medical services (EMS) employees embarked on “illegal strike action” this week.
But the more than 70 officials, from EMS bases in the towns, on Thursday denied being on strike or on a go-slow action.
They admitted instead that since Wednesday, they had refused to enter their bases because they felt it was unsafe to do so.
They accuse the department of failing to keep its promise to address issues around cleanliness, health and safety.
The workers vowed to report for duty every morning, sign attendance registers, and to continue staying outside the bases until their demands had been addressed.
Health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said as part of their contingency plans, they had arranged private ambulances “to attend to priority and most critical emergency cases”.
“There is an existing agreement [between us and those private ambulances] as a back-up when there is a shortfall of vehicles; when our vehicles are in for repairs, or any other emergency situation when our ambulances are not on the road.
“Our EMS staff at the two bases went on strike from Wednesday afternoon.”
The department, Sicwetsha said, was working towards addressing some challenges faced by EMS workers.
However, Nehawu’s Amathole EMS regional co-ordinator, Mzamane Mgwantashe, on Thursday denied workers were on a strike.
Speaking on behalf of EMS employees in Alice, Fort Beaufort, Bedford, Adelaide, Peddie, Keiskammahoek, Stutterheim and Cathcart, Mgwantashe said the work challenges were the same.
“Our bases are all filthy and unhygienic. We drink water from the toilets; our yards are not secure enough and we demand to be vaccinated.”
Mgwantashe said more than 300 employees were affected across their Amathole EMS bases, with over 70 in Alice and Fort Beaufort area...

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