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Silent killer: Red tape in public health care

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Equipment reportedly discarded by the Department of Health and allegedly purchased on State auction.

Equipment reportedly discarded by the Department of Health and allegedly purchased on State auction.

The reported death of an hour-old infant at Polo­kwane Provincial Hospital on Friday night has contributed to growing concern about a possible increased loss of precious lives amid apparent recent arrangements prohibiting paramedics affiliated to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) training facility of the Department of Health to render assistance in emergencies.
Polokwane Observer was alerted to a situation that arose from a paramedic allegedly not being available to transport the baby boy to Mankweng Hospital on Friday night for lack of a life support machine suitable for infants at Polokwane Provincial Hospital. Reliable sources alleged that while a training paramedic attached to the EMS College was available to assist at the time, he couldn’t access a portable ventilator locked in offices to which only the recently appointed principal, Albert Ramashitja, seemingly keeps the keys. The sources emphasised the child seemingly died at 21:54 due to reported lack of oxygen after suffering meconium aspiration during the delivery process, hence the transfer to Mankweng Hospital had to be cancelled.
It was learnt that Ramashi-tja has reversed arrangements for paramedics responsible for training at the college to assist in general operational duties, which in the past had drastically helped to relieve the burden in medical emergencies as was the case on Friday. It was learnt that the recently introduced measures apparently do not only include limited access to life-saving equipment that are locked up in offices after hours, but also to five costly response and support vehicles that are now stationary behind lock and key.
A related matter brought to Polokwane Observer’s attention was the accreditation of the college with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), which is expected to take up to two years. Polokwane Observer was informed that the trainers with the college are generally idle. Advertised posts for eight coordinators and lecturers for employment at the EMS training college at a time of the facility not being up and running were described as unnecessary expenses.
In official comment Department of Health Spokesperson Macks Lesufi responded by saying that the department was in the process of reviving the EMS Training College. “As the college was without a principal and accreditation for some years, the first step was to appoint a college principal.
“For the period when the college was not functioning college lecturers who are also trained paramedics, were rostered to do operational calls where required. With the assumption of duties of the principal, the college lecturers were removed from the routine rostering. These lecturers are now assigned with tasks to develop Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Programmes for operational Emergency Care Practitioners in the province. This is a key activity, to ensure that operational staff performs their duties professionally.”
He further stated that the department was working towards getting the college fully accredited by 2017. “In order to work towards the registration, lecturing posts are being advertised. As the lecturers need to work fully towards getting CPD and HPSCA (sic) accreditation in place, rostering during the week is not done anymore. The EMS service is also covered by operational emergency care practitioners and response vehicles. The lecturers can, however, be rostered over weekends, where there might be a service delivery need.”
He stipulated that during the weekend in question, no lecturers were on call. “The vehicles in question are also attached to the college and are used for training purposes. The rest of the equipment at the college is also reserved for training purposes and the principal has put measures in place to audit and secure the equipment,” he said.

Story: YOLANDE NEL
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