Emergency medical services update
On 25 and 26 March 2015, the South African Human Commission held a hearing on access to Emergency Medical Services in the Eastern Cape following a complaint from the community of Xhora Mouth and months of advocacy and analysis from the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition. People from across the province told stories of the death of loved ones when an ambulance didn’t arrive, complicated births happening at home while waiting for an ambulance, and people with disabilities forgoing treatment because of the amount they have to pay to get to a health facility for an appointment.
The hearing was harrowing but important. It was an opportunity for problems with accessing care in an emergency to be aired in front of responsible officials and for those officials to account. The Commission has produced a 103-page report in which it makes important findings about the failures of the Eastern Cape Department of Health and other departments in ensuring access to Emergency Medical Services for the people of the Eastern Cape. The process also elicited a number of commitments from the Eastern Cape Department of Health. Finally, the recommendations contained in the report include the purchase of new ambulances (in particular 4×4 vehicles), the training and recruitment of staff, the need to ensure that people with mental and physical disabilities are able to access transport to health facilities, and the need to ensure that ambulances arrive timeously.
The Commission launched the report in Mqele in the Eastern Cape. To bring the Commission’s findings and recommendations to life and to portray some of the stories told and evidence given at the hearing, the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition has produced a publication, in English and isiXhosa, which will be used in training sessions at Xhora Mouth, Isilatsha Village, Nier Village, Hamburg, East London, Lusikisiki and Zithulele. In these sessions, we will discuss health rights and advocacy, the ways in which implementation of the recommendations of the report can be monitored, and the next steps. The Commission’s report is an important step but we remain far from the goal of ensuring that an ambulance is available to anyone in the Eastern Cape, when they need it most.