The Eastern Cape health department’s inability to provide emergency services to rural communities means that elderly people in some communities having never seen an ambulance, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Thursday.
“We heard the fact there were elderly people who had never seen an ambulance in their entire lives, despite having experienced great emergency situations,” said deputy chairperson, Pregs Govender.
“The apartheid geography determines the entrenchment of that poverty and inequality. The fragmented health care system in the Eastern Cape is particularly pronounced in the former Transkei and Ciskei areas.”
She was addressing media in Johannesburg on the findings of the SAHRC’s report into the provision of emergency medical services in the Eastern Cape.
The SAHRC held a hearing in East London in March at which attendees spoke on how their rights had been detrimentally affected by poor emergency health care service delivery.
Disrespect for elderly “We heard also about the disrespect that people received when they called the call centres. Some of them spoke about being told disparagingly to go use their child care grant [R330 a month] and their old age grant [R1 041 a month],” Govender said.
“In the context of huge unemployment, those grants are used to support often entire extended families.”
People spoke of the indignity and pain of being transported in wheelbarrows, ambulances arriving late or not at all, and community health workers not being adequately trained resulting in complications and deaths during childbirth.
Further, the “terrible state of rural roads” made it impossible for ordinary ambulances to get to many villages.
“What we saw, that people were speaking not just for themselves as individuals, they were actually speaking for larger numbers of people across whole parts of our country and which reinforce apartheid patterns of inequality and discrimination,” Govender said.
While the Eastern Cape was the particular focus of this report, Govender said these type of problems were not isolated and existed elsewhere across the country.
Adam Wakefield, News24
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