When Chavhunga, who lives about 50 kms outside Pretoria in Stinkwater, began feeling dizzy and vomiting she asked her son to call an ambulance.
“We were told that the ambulance was on its way, but I waited until the following day,” Chavhunga tells OurHealth.
Chavhunga, still feeling very ill, decided to catch a taxi to the Dilopye Clinic where nurses found her blood pressure to be more than 200/120.
A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80. Elevated blood pressure can result in stroke or heart attacks, according to Mangena Mokoma, a nurse at a Tshwane hospital.
According to Mokoma, clinic nurses should allow patients like Chavhunga to rest for up to an hour at the clinic while trying to lower their blood pressure. If a patient’s pressure remains high, he or she should be referred by ambulance to a hospital to prevent the patient possibly collapsing while trying to reach the hospital on his or her own.
Due to Chavhunga’s elevated blood pressure, Dilopye Clinic nurses referred her to Jubilee Hospital and made it clear it she had to go there immediately.
Chavhunga says she asked if the clinic could arrange an ambulance for her while she rested, but the nurse said it was too late. With the clinic closing at 4pm, there would be no staff to wait with Chavhunga for the ambulance.
Nurses told Chavhunga to use public transport to reach the hospital instead.
“At Jubilee Hospital, the doctor made me to stay over for the night and discharged me the day after when my blood pressure was 164/86,” Chavhunga says. “The doctor at Jubilee Hospital advised me not to stay alone because I could have collapsed and, if there was no one to pick me up, I might have ended up with a stroke.”
A Stinkwater community leader Johannes Maake says that ambulances often arrive more than two hours after they have been called.
A Tshwane health department manager who did not want to be named agrees that the area’s ambulance system is deeply problematic.
“The ambulance problem is huge but, as the Health Department, we cannot solve it because it falls under the jurisdiction of the Emergency Services Department,” the official tells OurHealth. “Problems range from the numbers of ambulances available to how they are maintained.”
“The central system of booking them through 112 is also a nightmare,” she adds.
Chavhunga stayed with her aunt and sister until after Christmas, but is now back at home and taking treatment to control her blood pressure.