While on a recent business trip to our office in Roodepoort, Johannesburg , South Africa, I had the opportunity to take not one but two ride outs with a private “Ambo” service called Netcare. Netcare has an ambulance base next to one of their day clinics, Constantia Clinic. The Ambulance service is called Netcare911.
South Africa runs both Gov’t and Private ambulance services. As expected, the private services offer a much “better” service since these are paid for directly by way of medical aid benefits that people purchase. While you can just choose to accept what the Gov’t offers in terms of medical coverage most people choose to take out private medical as this will be better and more timely should you need medical help.
Netcare911 operates a fleet of Ambulances and Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV) as well as Air Ambulances, you can see what resources they have and where they’re located HERE. I was visiting the Roodepoort in Gauteng province.
The first shift
My first shift was a 12 hour night shift on April 2nd. I was riding with an ILS medic named Leon and a BLS medic named Bronwyn. They were a great team that clearly had fun together in between the seriousness of the job. This shift ran from 1830 – 0630 the following morning. The shift itself was very quiet. We were called out to one fainting in a small shopping centre. Pretty straightforward, grabbed the patient and left the scene for the hospital. Vitals were all normal, the cause of the fainting wasn’t determined nor could/would the patient provide us with any details of what happened.
We’d also been dispatched to a couple of MVA (RTC), the first one we’d gotten to but weren’t required as another ambulance service arrived before we did. The guys in the “bakkie” were pretty lucky. This was very clearly a case of too much speed, going down a steep hill with a lot of curves. The truck stayed upright some how but between hitting 2 guard rails and the curb several times it resulted in the rear axle of the truck being completely removed from the vehicle. Quite impressive really.
The next MVA we’d been stood down for some reason, I think it was due to the parties refusing medical treatment (a paramedic unit was already on scene)
Our final call for the evening, which came around 2am was to an overdose. The patient took a large amount of anti-depressants and several other meds. We’d simply transported them to the hospital. Seems it was a repeat customer for the same problem. That would explain the complete lack of hysteria on the mothers part.
That was it for that shift. We’d spent the rest of the evening sitting around base waiting for calls that never came.
The second shift
My second shift was another 12 hour night shift on April 8th (1830 – 0630). This time I was riding with RV60 (RRV) with a Paramedic named Ashley. We only had 2 calls in the evening.
The first call was to a two vehicle MVA, both drivers involved walked away from the crash, which I have to say was pretty spectacular. The entire front end of the car involved was destroyed, how the engine stayed in place is amazing, and likely the only thing that prevented more serious injuries to the driver. Both drivers refused hospital treatment and both the ambulance and RRV left the scene after completely checking out both drivers.
While sitting around the base waiting for another call, there was another Ambulance crew (Theresa and ??) that were called out and asked if I wanted to ride out with them since I had nothing else going on. This was to an assault victim. The patient was struck in the head with something, it was suspected it was a brick because of the shape and size of the gash on the forehead. We patched up the patient at home to stop the bleeding then transported them to hospital to get stitches. While not an overly serious case it certainly was a messy case. Careful clean up of all the gear was needed after that.
Back to base for us after that. Then came another call, this time it was for a resuscitation. Both an RRV and an Ambo were dispatched to this. This call was to a night club, the patient collapsed on the dance floor and was removed from the club to a car by people inside. When we arrived the patient was assessed and determined to be deceased. We had to hang around only until the police arrived to make it a “crime scene” to the determination of “non-natural causes”. This is standard procedure in these cases.
That was the last call for the evening for me.
The overall experience
Overall the experience was very good. I was very pleased with the opportunity to go out with the crews of Netcare911. Everyone I’d met from the Roodepoort base was fantastic and super friendly and welcoming. They all had some great stories to share of their experiences as well. I would certainly look to ride out again in the future if the chance comes up again. While EMTs and Paramedics all over the world have a hell of a tough job to do, the folks doing the job in Joburg have it just that little bit harder I think. This is due to the amount of crime and violence that causes personal injury and death every hour of the day, but add to that the high volumes of vehicles on the roads and horrendous driving skills by so many on the roads. Simply driving to/from the scene of a any call is actually putting the lives of the crews at risk. I must take my hat off these folks and applaud them for their professionalism in the face of so much adversity, despair and the results of inhuman acts they are called out to, all in the effort to save lives.