Massive risk because of lack of ambulances

LYDENBURG – The town, with an estimated population of 41 000 people (Statistics SA – 2013), allegedly only has two ambulances available in case of an emergency.

No one knows what happened to the five state rescue vehicles and ambulances the province previously had. The Mpumalanga Provincial Health Department only has one fully equipped ambulance. The others in town are that of Netcare 911. The ER24 ambulance was recalled from the area.

According to hazmat operator, Deon Broekman, this is a serious problem, especially with regard to frequent accidents in the area. “The state paramedics are doing what they can with what they have. If the state could supply them with two more ambulances, it will help a lot. The paramedics really do come out whenever I need help on a scene, but their resources are limited.”

Broekman said that Netcare is also always available when needed, and attended to accidents whenever possible. The lack of emergency vehicles can compound a disaster should it occur, like the horror bus crash 18 years ago. In 1999 a tour bus full of British tourists crashed down the mountain slope.

Twenty-seven people died when the Springbok Atlas coach rolled at the bottom of the Long Tom Pass, five kilometres outside Lydenburg, on September 27 that year. A 28th victim died in hospital about a month later. The bus driver and eight others were injured. Bodies and the injured were strewn around the luxury coach. Some were found about 20 metres ahead of the bus.

According to police, one of the dead was decapitated and most of those killed had serious head injuries. Broekman said that the only option in such a case would be to call in the help of ambulances from nearby towns. “We had a similar accident on the pass earlier this year when 35 people were injured during a crash. We had to call in the assistance of ambulances from Mbombela, Burgersfort, Matibidi and Sabie.”

The newspaper sent queries regarding the lack of emergency vehicles and ambulances to Dumisane Malemula of the Mpumalanga Department of Health. Steelburger/Lydenburg News wanted to know where the other emergency vehicles were, if they will be repaired or replaced, and whether the department was going to make any effort in supplying the area with more vehicles. No response had been received from the department at the time of going to press.

Narda Vermaak

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