The Free State Department of Health has stated, through its spokesperson, that a circular relating that its contract with private emergency medical service, Buthelezi Emergency Medical Services were terminated, was infact erroneous. The department said that the ambulance service had not been phased out and, in fact, whenever patients need to be transferred from one facility to another for a higher level of care, the provincial control centre must be contacted to determine first whether a departmental ambulance is available, if one is unavailable then Buthelezi will be contacted to assist.
The department also criticised the Chief Medical Officer at Phekolong Hospital in Dihlabeng Local Municipality and said that he was not authorised to send the circular with such inaccuracies. “We want all ambulances that are responding to any call to service to be dispersed from the control centre in the province,” the department said. This is contrary to an internal memo dated 22 February, written by the Clinical Manager of Phekolong Hospital in Bethlehem, stating that Buthelezi Services had been stopped with immediate effect.
The department further said that Buthelezi’s contract is still in place and the department will announce the outcome of the tender in due course. Dumelang News has learnt that last year the department had started a tender process to procure a new private ambulance service. This after the department came under fire for paying millions to Buthelezi Ambulances. Meanwhile, City Press reported that it is in possession of documents showing that High Care was paid about R14 million over seven months last year, which is about R2 million a month.
This was denied by the department. It said about R45 million was spent on Buthelezi and High Care for the 2016/2017 financial year (R123 803 a day), and R105 million for the 2017/2018 financial year to date (R280 165 a day).