Question NW2975 to the Minister of Health

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28 September 2023 - NW2975

Profile picture: Hlonyana, Ms NKF

Hlonyana, Ms NKF to ask the Minister of Health

Whether his department is responsible for providing around-the-clock emergency services that are readily available in rural areas; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what (a) measures has he put in place to ensure that emergency services are readily available in rural areas around the clock and (b) steps has his department taken to address shortages in emergency services that severely affect communities particularly in the rural areas?


Yes, Emergency Medical Services is provided on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis in all 52 health districts by approximately 3000 ambulances operational from 483 EMS stations located strategically throughout South Africa, in both, rural and urban settings.

a) Ambulances are further strategically assigned within the districts into municipal areas based on community needs, that is, the population density, location of district health services, accessibility to public transport and related socioeconomic factors taking into consideration budget availability. These ambulances are dispatched from our Emergency Communication Centres within the respective districts when requested upon by the callers/patients via our toll-free emergency number - 112.

b) The following measures are in place to complement numbers of ambulances we have:

  • In planning the EMS footprint, provinces consider rural settings, and the most marginalized citizens are taken into account.
  • Our public EMS in all provinces have service level agreements with private EMS providers for urgent calls and interfacility transfers.
  • Prioritized recruitment of EMS personnel for rural districts.
  • Use of vehicles with 4 x 4 capabilities are sourced in rural areas for ease of access in the tough terrain of the province. It must be noted that road infrastructure in rural areas is poor and distances to be travelled between health facilities and communities is longer which results in longer response times to emergencies.
  • Air ambulance service is used to access some of the hard-to-reach rural settings for life threatening cases.
  • Implementation of Planned Patient Transport to reduce usage of ambulances for patients needing transportation only between health facilities.
  • EMS plays an integral role in the District Health System, as is the case in any geographical area, therefore, works collaboratively with Primary Health Services and District Hospitals to ensure access and continuity of health care.
  • Notwithstanding these measures, we acknowledge that there are service-related challenges, like ambulance shortages, high number of ambulance breakdowns exacerbated by long turnaround times by repair service providers, etc and are cognisant of the variance in service, especially on our rural communities.


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