Hatzolah ambulances outshine City medical services
Hatzolah – which means rescue in Hebrew – has a proud record of rapid response times, usually only a few minutes after receiving a call. With five ambulances in its fleet, it can cope with several calls at once.
The SA Jewish Report has learnt that on one Friday morning last month, all five ambulances were out on emergency calls at the same time. According to Hatzolah General Manager Darren Sevitz, this was not the only time this had been done.
Sevitz told Jewish Report that the organisation had a fulltime professional team, but “if necessary we extend it to the volunteer base during the day” – depending on the demand for services. At night, we only use volunteers,” he said.
While not all five ambulances were always operational – some might be undergoing service – “we send out as many ambulances as required”, he said.
“The number of calls varies, but on average there are seven to eight calls a day, but this can be above 10 calls. There are days when there are successive calls.”
He added that Hatzolah also uses a number of cars with advanced life support paramedics, who accompany the ambulances to calls.
Launched in South Africa in 1998 to assist existing emergency medical services in the area, which are under enormous strain, the organisation is staffed by a group of Torah-observant, Jewish volunteers and is a free service to all Jewish people within its operating areas, covering large parts of the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.
The difficulties faced by the municipal services were highlighted recently in a letter to the Jewish Report from Gauteng provincial legislature member Jack Bloom, the shadow MEC for health.
He was outraged that a slow response time by a Johannesburg emergency ambulance reportedly led to the death of Klipspruit West resident after the man’s condition deteriorated following a three-day power failure that cut off his oxygen machine.
The ambulance arrived over four hours after being called. The patient had died by the time a friend took him to hospital, before the ambulance arrived.
“This highlights once again the very poor ambulance service by the Johannesburg City Council which repeatedly boasts about providing a world-class response time,” Bloom wrote.
“The Council claims that more than 80 per cent of Priority 1 calls are responded to within 15 minutes. I have challenged this claim in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature as I receive many complaints about slow ambulance response times.”
Bloom contrasted the Hatzolah responses to this.
“This is what can be done if you had an efficient service,” he told the SA Jewish Report, referring to Hatzolah.
“The problem with Johannesburg Emergency Services is that at any one time up to half the ambulances would be out of action, under repair, because they are driven so badly.
“I get the figures at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. Instead of fixing the ambulances, they fix the figures,” he said.
“People know this and that’s why the private services are needed, such as Netcare 911, ER 24 and Hatzolah.”
Hatzolah itself believes that every moment that passes in a medical emergency could be the difference between life and death and tries to keep its response times as short as possible.