On the 11th of December, Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, together with senior officials of the department, unveiled the province’s festive season readiness plans at Hermanus Provincial Hospital.
Every year, the Department of Health and Wellness prepares for increased trauma and emergency incidents that are associated with the festive season. This entails ensuring that our emergency centres in our facilities and our Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are well-equipped to manage this period of increased demand ahead of the province’s tourism season.
Already, our healthcare facilities have begun to decrease elective procedures to allow for the reallocation of sufficient resources to our emergency centres for the anticipated increase in medical (and trauma) incidents. These facilities have also taken the necessary steps to ensure a secured supply and inventories of projected consumables needs for the festive season.
With EMS expecting to respond to on average 60 000 calls in the province between 15 December and 15 January, readiness plans are in place to ensure our personnel can rapidly access and respond timeously to place the right patient in the most appropriate facility in the shortest time, resulting in the best possible outcome. There will again be a strong emphasis on ensuring effective pre-hospital treatment, stabilisation for serious illness and injuries, and transport to definitive care for residents and visitors of the Western Cape.
To ensure that resources are optimally available over this period, the following steps will be implemented:
During this event, the department also had an opportunity to showcase its innovative rural EMS drone programme.
Search and rescue operations often rely upon aircraft to search for missing people over large geographic areas. Manned aircraft may not always be available and are expensive to operate. Considering this, our province’s response has leveraged drone technology’s advanced capabilities since 2020 to deliver critical support during emergencies, notably before EMS response teams and services can reach the scene, thereby making a life-or-death difference.
As the first province in South Africa to be allowed to fly drones legally as part of its EMS operations, the Western Cape has expanded the rescue drone service this year to rural districts such as the Garden Route, Cape Winelands, and Overberg. With more pilots trained, the province’s five drones, which have completed nearly 50 missions in 2023, can serve more residents over the festive season. Equipped with high-definition cameras and other sensors, these drones provide real-time situational awareness to emergency services, enabling a swift, and informed response.
Our specialist drone teams continue to play critical roles because they can reach inaccessible areas to search for missing individuals, provide real-time video feed to pinpoint the exact location of the individual, and operate in complex environments that may be too dangerous for human first responders.
In scenarios where individuals are stuck in a location that is hard to reach immediately by human first responders – like on a mountain, in a flooded area, or in a building on fire – our drones can be used to deliver essential supplies. This might include first aid kits, food, water, or communication devices. Our EMS drone teams promise quicker, safer responses and potentially more lives saved. Their capacity to provide valuable real-time data, access inaccessible areas, and extend operational capabilities makes them indispensable for the province’s response to medical emergencies.
Minister Dr Nomafrench Mbombo concluded the event by stating, “We appeal to all residents to be responsible during their celebrations this festive season. In doing so, you will help us to help those in need of health care. With health services traditionally working under increased pressure during this period we all must work together in protecting the healthcare system, particularly during a time where resources are even more strained. As we celebrate the end of a long year, let us also thank all the law enforcement and medical personnel who will be on duty during this time.”