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MBABANE – EmaSwati are heading for an imminent peril as the country is short of ambulances.

An ambulance is a motor vehicle that is used to ferry people to hospital in times of emergencies. In a shocking revelation, it was stated that the country, which has a population of over one million people is only left with 12 functioning ambulances.

The Director of the Emergency Preparedness Response Department under the Ministry of Health, Masitsela Mhlanga, said this was because 20 ambulances were parked at the Central Transport Administration (CTA) garage where they were taken for repairs.
Speaking on national radio yesterday morning, Mhlanga said the department was struggling to reach out to the nation due to the shortage of ambulances.

Mhlanga mentioned that the department, which falls directly under the most important ministry in the country, last received ambulances when the State purchased motor vehicles in 2013, which means the service warrant had expired.
Mhlanga said the department suffered a great consequence when the ambulances were taken to CTA for repairs because they took too long to return on the road yet there was a high demand for health services.
He suggested that government should provide another garage that would specialise in the ambulances so that the services would not be disturbed by the delays at the State garage.

It was also gathered that another challenge was that at times, the motor vehicles were not properly fixed which resulted in them developing mechanical faults while transporting patients.
Last week, it was reported that an ambulance door was tied with bandages to prevent it from opening while paramedics were ferrying patients to heath centres at Dumako area. “Ambulances operate 24 hours so they should be serviced regularly,” Mhlanga said.

He acknowledged that at times, the department, which was also known as 977, struggled to give proper emergency services to the members of the public when they call for assistance.  Mhlanga said the fact that the EPR was not able to reach out to the nation was reflected by the number of unattended cases each time members of the public sought assistance.
He revealed that some work stations had no ambulances at all yet they were expected to provide services to the nation. “People are sick, and accidents happen every day so it is not good for the ministry to run short of ambulances,” he said.

Mhlanga said with the few ambulances, they were able to provide services to a small number of people.
He mentioned that the ministry had since applied for 54 ambulances from government in order to balance the number of ambulances needed in the country. He said Eswatini needed at least 60 ambulances in order to carry, out its work effectively.

Mhlanga said there was a possibility that the situation might worsen if the sought cars were not made available within two months.
He said it would be better for government to lease the ambulances since it was cheaper compared to buying new ones. He said the advantage of leasing was that leased cars were serviced properly, something which might reduced the inconveniences that were caused by the vehicles breaking down.

He made an example that other countries leased such vehicles in order to meet the international standards.
Meanwhle, the President of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union, Bheki Mamba, said it was high time the country engaged in an honest dialogue in order to find ways to revive the economy which seemed to be at the brink of collapse. Mamba said as far as the union was concerned, the country was heading for danger as far as health was concerned.
Mamba said the union foresaw a situation where people would die due to medicine shortage in the country. “We have to look at the broader perspective when we talk about the current situation. What we see now is a government that is focused on its needs as opposed to providing services to the people. Every government is gauged by the services that it provides to the people,” he said.
He said health, education social needs were a priority, however, the country’s government had proven that it was no longer able to provide the services according to the order of importance.
 Mamba made an example of the recent situation where many patients, especially those who were receiving treatment through Phalala Fund missed their treatment because government failed to settle its debts with the South African hospitals.
“We need an honest dialogue so that we can find a way to come out of this situation before cancer patients lose their lives. The delay in payment of OVC fees, food programmes in schools, fuel shortage and the current state of the country’s roads is a sign that there is a lot that is not right with our government,” he said.
Mamba opined that the situation was caused by the mismanagement of resources and corruption. The unionist said anyone in government could attest to the fact that there was no way to come out of the current situation.
 He said government’s strategy to recover money though taxes would not serve any purpose because there was a small number of people who were eligible to pay taxes.

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