Newcastle Department of Health ambulances targeted by syndicate

District Mayor Dr Musa Ngubane and MEC Doctor Sibongisle Dhlomo with police officers when one of the taxis was confiscated.

NEWCASTLE CBD – A crime syndicate was discovered within the ranks of the Department of Health.

This comes after a taxi boss was arrested on Wednesday morning for purchasing parts stolen from ambulances.

According to a press statement submitted by KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Doctor Sibongiseni Dhlomo, health department employees had allegedly stripped the ambulances before selling it to the taxi owner.

Three of the nine taxis owned by the suspect have since been impounded.

While commending the police for the arrest, Dr Dhlomo was dismayed at the employees.

“It is really painful that an employee who rose through the ranks to become a head of section, is responsible for this misery which has resulted in a shortage of ambulances.

“Surely, the stripped ambulances pose a great danger to both our patients and paramedics as the original parts are replaced by the worn parts, the safety and durability of which cannot be guaranteed.”

Dr Dhlomo said he would be calling a meeting within the week with the heads of Emergency Medical Service across the district to discuss the issue.

“I want them to give an explanation as to how these fairly new ambulances end up requiring replacement of gearboxes, tyres, starters and other parts that are supposed to have a longer lifespan.”

He will also demand an account of the way ambulances are managed and monitored.

Although further arrests are expected, the syndicate’s actions have already had negative consequences.

On April 6, a man took to social media to voice his disgust at the ambulance service, after it failed to respond to a call for help.

“At 5.30pm, I called an ambulance for somebody who had difficulty in breathing.

“At 7.09pm, I received a call from the ambulance department, advising that they didn’t have an available ambulance.

“At 7.15pm, the person I had called for, passed on. The ambulance only came at 8.13pm.”

Member of KZN Provincial Legislature, as and also member of the Health Portfolio Committee, Democratic Alliance KZN Spokesperson of Health, Doctor Imran Keeka, said he was looking into the matter.

“The person who posted the comment was to send me the details so that I may follow up the incident up with the department through parliamentary questions to MEC Dhlomo.

“I have not received the details and so am unable to pursue it until I’ve received the information.”

However, he said KZN faced a huge problem in response time because of the lack of vehicles. “Then there is the criminal element that has targeted ambulances; the kingpin having now been arrested in Newcastle.” There are currently only 24 ambulances in the Amajuba District to service a population of almost 515 000 people. “This leaves a gap for 27 more vehicles,” he continued. “The lack of a monitoring system for response times and the figures the department provides are at this point in time unacceptable. It is hoped the meeting MEC Dhlomo intends to hold might possibly bring about a change,” he concluded.

  AUTHOR
Quinton Boucher
Journalist

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