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EMS and Ambulance Crisis Across South Africa: Who’s Liable and is There Any Recourse?

EMS and Ambulance Crisis Across South Africa: Who’s Liable and is There Any Recourse?
June 11, 2019 gnuworld
ems ambulance crisis

Your chances of surviving a medical emergency depend heavily on how quickly you can get to an emergency room. For the majority of South Africans, this means relying on a government ambulance to get you to the nearest hospital.

The ambulance and EMS crisis in South Africa is making it less and less likely that patients will get the help they need in time.

A critical shortage of ambulances is resulting in an unnecessary number of patients dying or suffering further harm due to delays and “no shows.”

The state of the ambulance and EMS services in South Africa

A recent Bhekisisa survey revealed that South Africa only has 1971 state-run ambulances on the road.

This falls well short of the 5700 – one per every 10 000 people – recommended by the health department. This is only enough ambulances to cover a third of the population.

ambulance stats

Ideal versus actual ambulances. Source: Bhekisisa

The critical shortage of ambulances is not the only issue plaguing state-run emergency medical services.

Slow response times are also exacerbated by poorly trained emergency call centre staff and the lack of accessibility to rural areas due to poor road conditions.

Ambulance and first responder delays have tragic results

Delays in getting a patient to a hospital often result in a worsened medical condition, and in some cases even death.

A case in the Eastern Cape resulted in a young pregnant woman losing her baby because the closest ambulance was 60km away. After a four-hour wait, the woman’s parents eventually paid a neighbour to take her to the hospital.

Unfortunately, due to complications brought on by the delay, the woman’s baby died. The ambulance they had called did eventually arrive but only eight hours after the original call.

The woman’s mother maintained that, “if the ambulance response time was not so atrocious, my daughter may not have lost her child”.

In another case, a man testified before the Human Rights Commission about calling an ambulance for his sick sister on a Friday, only to be told that no ambulances were available. He was told to take her to the nearest clinic instead. He tried calling again, to no avail. His sister eventually died two days later. No ambulance was ever dispatched.

Liability when an ambulance is delayed or doesn’t arrive

If an ambulance is delayed or doesn’t arrive due to provable negligence or poor service delivery by the state, you might be able to claim for damages.

The claim could be against the state, the hospital or entity that managed and despatched the ambulance, or the EMTs on the ambulance if their conduct could be considered negligent.

If you believe you have grounds for an ambulance or EMS negligence claim, you have the right to look at the records, charts and information related to your emergency transport in order to build your case.

Medical malpractice cases can be lengthy and arduous, so it’s important to make sure you have a strong case and sufficient legal representation and support.

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Ambulance and EMS claims with DSC Attorneys

At DSC Attorneys, our attorneys and medico-legal team have extensive experience in handling medical and EMS malpractice claims.

We can assess your claim, send you for any necessary medical examinations, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.

We also work on a no win, no fee basis. Contact us for more information or to discuss your medical malpractice claim.

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