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Updated 26 January 2016

Where are the ambulances? Where are the doctors?

Months after a man died while waiting for an ambulance to arrive, residents in Limpopo are questioning the purpose of a clinic without access to emergency services or a doctor.

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Months after Ha-Mashau residents in Limpopo watched a man die as he waited for an ambulance, the community of more than 15 000 says their cries for a dedicated ambulance for the area continue to go unheard.

In October 2015, 47-year-old David Mashaba died after waiting more than three hours for an ambulance to arrive at his village of Ha-Mashau about 40 km east of Louis Trichardt. Desperate, Mashaba's family called Democratic Alliance's ward representative Jonas Mugovhani.

Earlier this week, Mugovhani got another call from a panicked family.

Read: Animal activist acts as ambulance in Soweto

"I received a call on Sunday saying that there was a woman who was about to give birth and she had been waiting for an ambulance for hours," he said. "I had to rush there and take her to the hospital."

Luckily we arrived in time," said Mugovhani, who previously alleged that he had never seen an ambulance at the local clinic.

Ha-Mashau resident Thomas Lebago said he sometimes questions the purpose of a clinic without access to emergency services or a doctor.

"It is useless to have a clinic without a doctor and an ambulance because when you get sick and go to seek medication, you already know that they are going to tell you to go to the Elim Hospital," Lebago said. "You have to find your own means of transport to get there, as they are no ambulances at the clinic.''

Elim Hospital is about 20kms west of Ha-Mashau. In the absence of emergency services, villagers continue to complain about the high cost of hiring private cars to ferry emergency cases to Elim Hospital.

"Our personal cars are now are being used as ambulances because of this problem," Mugovhani said. "We are losing our loved ones because of this."

Both Mugovhani and the Treatment Action Campaign activists have reported raising the issue with the provincial department of health.

"We have been trying to address the issue of no ambulances at our village with the government for some time now, but nothing has been done," Mugovhani said.

Read: Left for dead: The shocking state of ambulances

The ratio of ambulances to patients in Limpopo remains – like many provinces – far above the national target of one emergency vehicle per every 10 000 people. According to the Limpopo Department of Health's latest annual report, the province had one emergency vehicle for every 47 290 residents.

However, the department did unveil 60 new ambulances in August.

According to Limpopo Department of Health Spokesperson Macks Lesufi, the department is working to address the problem.

"We are doing all we can to make sure that we provide all the necessary medical equipment to our people, as we value their health," Lesufu said.

Following a 2015 hearing into the lack of emergency medical services in the Eastern Cape, the South African Human Rights Commission is expected to launch a national investigation into the state of emergency medical services. – Health-e News.

Watch: Dying In Our Homes reveals the impact that the lack of ambulances is having on the lives of rural families.

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Health-e News is South Africa’s award-winning dedicated health news service producing news and in-depth analysis for the country’s print and television media.

 
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