Documentary premiere: Dying in our homes

Documentary premiere: Dying in our homesA woman and man in a graveyard.

Amid a dire shortage of ambulances in the Eastern Cape patients’ lives are at risk as many calls for help go unanswered. A new Health-e News documentary, Dying In Our Homes, reveals the impact on the lives of rural families.

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Xolisile and Nolusapho are mourning the death of their sister, Tumeka. They watched as she lay in bed critically ill and writing in pain waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Nofundile Sipatana struggles to feed her family as her money is spent on hiring private vehicles to take her to hospital in emergency situations.
Nofundile Sipatana struggles to feed her family as her money is spent on hiring private vehicles to take her to hospital in emergency situations.

When the ambulance eventually arrived five days later to collect her there was no drip, no oxygen and no paramedic on board. Tumeka died a few days later in hospital.

“The fact that the ambulance did not arrive on the first day played a major role in the death of my sister…It saves lives to treat people at the right time,” said Xolisile Sam.

In the Eastern Cape, just 353 ambulances serve about 6.5 million people. People are dying because they can’t reach hospitals in emergencies and those in rural areas are hit the worst, as bad roads and vast distances stand between them and healthcare.

Some communities are so remote that they have never even physically seen an ambulance. When faced with medical emergencies they are forced to make their own plan to access healthcare. This involves hiring private vehicles and paying out of pocket. Communities resort to borrowing money from loan sharks to finance these emergency trips.

The fact that the ambulance did not arrive on the first day played a major role in the death of my sister”

Many are now living in debt. We profile one woman whose need to get the hospital has plunged her family into debt.

“If ambulances can be available in our area, people would not come and loan money from us loan sharks,” said one loan shark.  “Ambulances would be available to take them to hospitals and the service is free of charge.”

The premiere of Dying in our Homes will coincide with the release of the South African Human Rights Commission report investigating the lack of ambulances in the Eastern Cape. The SAHRC report follows a two-day hearing on the matter earlier this year.

The body’s recommendations will come too late for families who have already born the brunt of the ambulance shortage. We follow one family who has felt the pain and says people in the Eastern Cape are busy dying in their homes.

Watch the premiere of ‘Dying in our Homes’ tonight on Cutting Edge, SABC 1 at 9.30pm. 

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CUTTING EDGE: SABC 1, 9.30PM
DATE OF BROADCAST: 1 OCTOBER 2015
PRODUCER: KYLA HERRMANNSEN

[Updated 25 January 9:23 pm Watch the documentary online via Health-e News’ dedicated YouTube Channel]