City of Johannesburg seeks alternatives as province takes over ambulance services
City of Johannesburg MMC for public safety Michael Sun says the city is still in the dark as the Gauteng Provincial Government prepares to take over ambulance services. In April, the local government announced it will be pulling its subsidy and support for the city-run ambulance service, taking with it the Department of Health licence that the city was using to operate their emergency vehicles. The city has run a service on behalf of the Gauteng provincial government for an annual fee of R130m since 2006.
The move comes just before tightened licensing regulations, enforced by the department, come into effect on 1 June 2019. Any operator found guilty of contravening the regulations "faces a fine not exceeding R500 000 and or imprisonment not exceeding five years". The decision also comes as the city, which spans 334km and is home to 28 fire stations, still operates with just 13 fire engines.
Cancelled contracts, alleged to have been mired in allegations of corruption, have left the fire service limping. A tender to supply the trucks was advertised and awarded but in March, days before the announcement of the winning bid, the supplier pulled out. The process will now start afresh. The ambulance service is also flagging, with only 60 of its 101 ambulances working, Michael Sun, MMC for public safety in the City of Johannesburg, admitted earlier.
He said the province's move to pull its funding and licence came as a surprise. "City of Johannesburg EMS requested that the provincial government provide certain documentation, including the decision to provincialise, in order to make an informed decision. No documentation has been received as to date. "The city is looking at the possibility of operating its fully owned and licensed ambulance service. In such event, the CoJ will be applying for registration with various authorities such as the national department of health and Board of Healthcare Funders. "We will continue to engage and ensure that possible disruptions of the services are minimised and the process made known to the public."
Gauteng health spokesperson Lesemang Matuka undertook to respond but never did. National health spokesperson Popo Maja referred queries back to Matuka.
Sun says the funding was already limited and the city 'laid out' much more in order to render the services to Johannesburg residents. He says they are looking at other alternatives. “One of our options is to go out and apply for the relevant licences and permits so that the City of Joburg can have its own licences to carry out the provision of ambulance services to residents. At the moment we are not getting enough communication from the local government.”
Sun says attempts will be made to retain staff. “We will find ways. We have done calculations on the worst-case scenario. Certainly not on our watch that we are going to leave any of our staff high and dry.”
Source: 702 and The Sowetan