We have received backlash from the public and media queries regarding the scooters that have been provided for health workers when doing their field work and home visits.
We write to clarify that these motorbikes (not scooters) are NOT in any way meant to replace ambulances. Basic emergency medical service protocol will not allow for this and we would not in any way support this. This is an intervention designed to bring health care closer to the people.
One of the complaints that the Eastern Cape Department of Health has received from rural communities is that because of lack of road infrastructure, especially in rural areas, ambulances do not reach people who are sick, especially the elderly. The members of the community end up having to put an individual in a wheelbarrow or walking a long distance whilst carrying a patient until they reach a road where the ambulance can go.
The MEC then saw these community health worker motorbikes as an opportunity to address those instances. These are motorbikes that are designed for oﬀ-road capabilities and the intention is for these units to be able to transport patients to the nearest clinic so that ambulances can concentrate on transporting patients from clinics to facilities oﬀering higher levels of care. The motorbikes are appendaged by both sitting and supine units which are fully waterproofed so that even those who cannot sit up can be accommodated. No patient will be exposed to the elements while being transported in these units.
These units are also versatile in that they can be used as mobile clinics, mobile testing units and mobile medicine delivery units which will support the CCMDD programme.
They can be ridden by two community health workers to carry out the above functions: for example COVID-19 screening in deep rural areas and general health screening and testing for other communicable diseases such as TB and HIV as well as non communicable disease like diabetes and hypertension. Recently, we received a substantial donation of blood pressure machines. This is the kind of opportunity where one pieces all the capacity growth together to allow us to penetrate deeper into communities as we implement our primary health care programmes. So, in this example, health care workers can go into very difficult terrain to bring BP machines to the most outlying and previously underserved communities so they too benefit from the advantages of preventative medicine.
It is for this reason that these community health workers will also carry mobile phones and two way radios so that they can immediately alert emergency medical services personnel should a patient who requires urgent hospitalization be identified.
As part of introducing these scooters to the public, mobile clinics, which double as ambulances were also launched as part of the demonstration. This was precisely to demonstrate how we expect the chain of care to function in a way that is helpful and acceptable for our people.
The dignity and health of our people remains a top priority and we will continue to explore all avenues to ensure that even the poorest members of the community enjoy the right to quality health care.
It is proven that when health workers are visible in the community and bring preventative health care into the home, this reduces the burden on health care facilities and ultimately saves people from disability due to ill health or death due to uncontrolled chronic disease. This model has been highly successful in countries like Cuba. It is for this reason that we will continue to promote such initiatives in all provinces that work towards our goal to saving the lives and improving the health of all our people, regardless of their economic status or the area they live in.
Further to this statement we annexe hereto MEC Sindiswa Gomba’s statement from the launch yesterday.