Mkhize admits ‘glorified wheelbarrows’ are not suitable ambulances: DA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called into question a multi-million rand medical scooter project launched by the Eastern Cape Department of Health, following admission by health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize that scooters do not meet the basic Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regulations.

In June Dr Mkhize attended the launch of the scooter project in the Eastern Cape Department – aimed at offering medical assistance in rural areas.

“These multi-purpose units are extremely versatile and can transport patients or deliver medication in rural communities,” said minister Mkhize at the time.

“They have off-road capabilities and are equipped with waterproofing and drip stands.”

In a reply to a parliamentary question posed by the DA, on the suitability of the ‘scooter ambulances’ as a form of patient transport, Dr Mkhize, said that the project did not meet the basic criteria for patient transport as an ambulance.

“The purpose of this project by ECDOH is mainly for widening access to primary health care and delivering of chronic medicine for the most remote areas of the Eastern Cape Province,” he said.

“The reply goes on further to state that these R10 million glorified wheelbarrows which have been procured with public money will only be used to deliver medication in rural parts of the Eastern Cape,” said the DA’s Siviwe Gwarube.

“This is in direct contradiction to what was said when the initiative was launched on the 12th of June where it was stated by the Eastern Cape Health MEC, Sindiswa Gompa, that these were meant to ferry patients from rural areas to the nearest health facilities.”

Asked whether his department was consulted before the specified scooters were procured; if so, what brief was given to the province in this regard?

Dr Mkhize said: “The National Department of Health was not consulted on specifications before procurement of the scooters.

“However, the Province has been advised that none of these scooters will be used as ambulances because they do not meet the specific requirements as provided for in the EMS Regulations, such as, minimum patient compartment space and equipment requirements.”

According to the DA, the Bid Adjudication Committee in the Eastern Cape committed to investigate the awarding of the tender to the supplier of these scooters.

This is in addition to the investigation the DA has requested for from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to look into the rights of patients who would have to be subjected to this inhumane transport, it said.

The DA said it will submit this response from the minister to the SAHRC as supplementary evidence in the investigation they have committed to doing.

“If the NDOH now backtracks from the initial purported function of the scooters which Minister Mkhize personally endorsed, it begs the question why R10 million is being spent of a chronic medication distribution system,” said Gwarube.

“What is the point of the first aid equipment, drip stands and the stretcher attached to the scooter?”

Read: Watch: Mkhize unveils new medical scooter project

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Mkhize admits ‘glorified wheelbarrows’ are not suitable ambulances: DA