Emergency medical care

paramedics assisting patient

Whenever you’re in a situation that requires emergency medical attention, you should  get to your nearest community health centre as quickly as possible. 

When arriving at a health care centre, a health worker will assess you  give you a colour corresponding to how severe your condition is.
  • Green – A health worker will see you when they’re  available. 
  • Yellow – A health worker will see you as soon as possible.
  • Orange – A health worker will see you urgently.
  • Red – A health worker will see you immediately.

By following this system, you’ll receive the right treatment at the right level of care.

Always go to your local clinic first to have your required level of care and treatment determined by medical staff.

Always take your ID with you. 

Appointment System

If you need follow-up care, the health worker will set up an appointment to ensure you receive the necessary treatment at the right level by your clinic.

To avoid long waiting time, always try to be on time for your appointment, and remember to bring your ID book.

Once at your clinic, your condition is assessed and treatment will be determined, which may require a referral. Be sure to always have your ID book with you when visiting the clinic.

For life-threatening emergencies where you can’t get to a community health centre on your own, you must call our ambulance services as soon as possible.

To be in an accident or suffer a medical emergency can be very traumatic. Trauma can be managed or reduced if you know how to manage the emergency.

It is important to know what to do when calling an ambulance and what to expect when you get to the hospital.

When to call an ambulance


An EMS ambulance operated by Western Cape Government Emergency Medical Services should only be called for medical emergencies.

These include;
  • heart attacks,
  • near drowning incidents, 
  • serious motor vehicle accidents, 
  • unconscious individuals,
  • and other such medical emergencies. 

Non-emergency calls account for up to 70% of calls received by Emergency Medical Services (EMS). These range from headaches to tooth aches.. These types of calls hamper service delivery and place strain on already limited resources.

How to call an ambulance

The number to dial include 10177 

Please have the patient details on hand when calling to insure that the incident is referred to the correct emergency resource.

What information you should give when calling an ambulance

•    The current medical status of the patient. For example, are they breathing? Are their symptoms worsening? 
•    Any ongoing medical issues that you’re aware of, like breathing problems or heart issues? Are they taking any medication?
•    Any changes to the patient’s condition while you’re on the call.
•    Your exact location, with any landmarks that may help us find you faster.

An emergency medical resource is dispatched based on the information provided by the caller.


What to expect after you call an ambulance

In the event of a priority 1 (P1) medical emergency the ambulance will arrive within 15 minutes or less, 80% of the time. Non-life threatening priority 2 (P2) calls will need to wait longer due to pending P1 emergencies.

How the triage system works

The EMS triage system begins when you first contact an emergency call centre. 

The call agent will:

  • evaluate the emergency based on the information provided by the caller. This is why it’s very important to provide correct patient details including medical history if at all possible, and 
  • prioritise the severity of the emergency using several filtering protocols as well as input from emergency medical practitioners at the emergency call centre.

At this point the incident is given a triage colour code. 

It’s important to give details about the emergency to the call centre to make sure that the correct code is allocated to it.

Most calls are triaged green due to 70% of calls being non-emergency incidents. We need to ensure that response time is not wasted on non-essential calls. EMS aims to arrive within 15 minutes of the initial call. 
Emergency numbers

Currently, there’s no single emergency number in South Africa for emergencies. It’s very important for you to have the correct contact details handy for a speedy response to your specific emergency.

Here is more information who to call in an emergency.

The content on this page was last updated on 14 October 2016