Five hour wait for ambulance

“I called the 112 [emergency] number. I told them a guy got stabbed not far from my home. I gave them directions. The person I spoke to assured me that the ambulance was on its way,” Nandipha Sinaye.

Sinaye lives in Isilatsha village near Mooiplaas just over 40km from East London. She is recounting how she tried to assist a man who had been attacked near her home last month.

After waiting for nearly an hour, Sinaye said she called back and was told there were no vehicles available. Five hours later, Sinaye said, a man from a neighbouring village took the injured man to hospital in his car. The ambulance never arrived.

Her complaint is a common one in this rural area.

Xolisile Sam, a member of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), said that people were often forced to hire a car for R600 to take a patient to Frere Hospital or Empilweni hospitals in East London. “The health system is failing people living in rural areas,” said Sam.

Last week TAC members launched an initiative where they call for ambulances on behalf of Isilatsha residents.

TAC member Nokulunga Jalisile said that language was one of the main concerns when residents from rural areas contacted the emergency call centre.

“Most people who live in this village are pensioners. They do not have cell phones,” Sam said.

Sizwe Kupelo, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Health, said the province had 400 ambulances and a helicopter for the East London area. He advised that the Isilatsha community should not call the ambulance base directly, but instead call the toll-free 10177 emergency service centre number. “We are currently awaiting the delivery of over 100 emergency fleet vehicles including buses,” he said.

This article was published by and first appeared on, on 25 April 2017.

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