The Tshwane metro says having a special infection unit ambulance equipped with technology to safely transport patients with infectious conditions has boosted their response to Covid-19.
While the Tshwane special infectious unit bulletproof ambulances launched last year were not necessarily planned for Covid-19, the metro believed that it has strengthened their response to the pandemic.
One of the key ambulances was one equipped to deal with infectious conditions.
Tshwane emergency services spokesperson Charles Mabaso said the special unit ambulance equipped with an isolation chamber was the first of its kind in South Africa.
He said it fulfilled a key requirement to deal with hazardous incidents such as viral hemorrhagic fever, extensively drug-resistant or multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and Covid-19 patient treatment and transportation.
“The box body of the ambulance is mounted separately from the cabin of the vehicle. It is constructed from aviation technology polyurethane and is a hermetically sealed unit mounted onto the chassis.
“It has an isolation chamber equipped with a negative pressure filtration system that fits on the stainless steel monobloc ambulance stretcher. The negative pressure isolation chamber allows the patient to be scanned in the chamber without exposing the radiology staff to infection such as Covid-19 and without needing to decontaminate the computerised tomography (CT) scanning suite.”
While the patient would be inside the stretcher covered with transparent materials, Mabaso said they could breathe and receive medication.
“A 50-litre fridge is installed for refrigerated medications. Piped medical oxygen with two wall outlets, four power points, two ultraviolet antimicrobial lights and filters are installed. It has the capability for critical care level of treatment,” he said.
The ambulance arrived at a time when the safety of health workers has been at the heart of the nation’s Covid-19 pandemic conversation, many raising issues of safety or at least measures set up as they deal directly with infected people and risk of them being infected running at a high.
“It serves as a protective measure, while the patient would be in the isolation chamber the medical practitioners can continue giving treatment to them without easily being infected.
“Just like all other health workers and other frontline workers, paramedics work in an environment with an inherent risk of infection. Our team of paramedics working on the special infectious unit ambulance is trained and equipped to handle medical emergencies where suspected or known cases of infectious substances are involved,” he said.
“The team adheres to strict protocols and standard operating procedures aimed at protecting them from getting infected. Fortunately, to date, no staff member working on the special infectious unit ambulance has been infected with Covid-19.”
The ambulance was part of Tshwane emergency services fleet of specialised vehicles, launched on 12 August, last year.
Mabaso said the ambulance cost R1.2 million.
“We procured the vehicle as part of our vehicle replacement strategy which is aimed at providing world-class emergency services.
“While the special infectious unit ambulance was launched during the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for such a vehicle was identified by our management team while studying the trends of various medical outbreaks, like Ebola and tuberculosis, long before the Covid-19 outbreak.”
Tshwane metro MMC for community safety and emergency services Karen Meyer said the specialised vehicles boosted the metro’s response to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is a testament to the need for the metro to continue providing such emergency medical services as a fully licensed ambulance operator,” she said.
This article was republished from Rekord East with permission