Gauteng invests in smart tech to improve emergency services

Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Gauteng Department of Health has invested in smart technologies that are aimed at improving response times, says Gauteng Health and Wellness MEC, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.

Responding to questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, Nkomo-Ralehoko, said despite the increase in the demand for emergency medical services in Gauteng -- owing to a growing population and high volume of calls -- the Gauteng Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has managed to maintain an 88% response time for calls under 60 minutes.

This hour is known as the “golden hour” -- vital to saving a patient’s life -- and is aligned to international standards (80%) and trends.

Nkomo-Ralehoko said Gauteng EMS continues to work on strategies to improve Priority 1 response times under 30 minutes in urban areas and 60 minutes in rural areas.

She said in about 70 000 emergencies being responded to by EMS on a monthly basis, 3% of them amount to Priority 1 cases (life threatening), and of this, 1% is medical cases and 2% is made up of trauma cases that require the intervention of law enforcement agencies.

In a bid to improve response times, the department has invested in smart technologies, including ‘push to talk’ devices that have live tracking to emergency calls and tracking, panic buttons and cameras in the emergency vehicles in order to mitigate against paramedic attacks, which contribute towards delayed responses.

“Other interventions include continuous engagement with law enforcement agencies (SAPS, Metro Police and Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens) to assist with escort to areas that are marked as hot zones.

“In addition, we have procured five 4x4 specialised ambulances to access all terrains in the province and also implemented Gauteng Scheduled Emergency Transport (G-SET) which is meant to reduce patient waiting times during referrals between health facilities,” Nkomo-Ralehoko said.

She said the introduction of G-SET will further free up ambulances to respond to primary calls like accidents, assaults and house emergencies, among others. 

The G-SET programme has already yielded positive results in terms of response times, the model of patient referral and transportation, and improved patient experience.

The MEC also pointed out that service delivery protests and hot zones - where ambulances must first be escorted by the police before entering areas - and paramedic attacks, are among the leading causes of delays in response times.

The department reiterated its call to the public not to block ambulances during protests, and also not allow criminals to intimidate EMS crews from discharging their duties. –