‘Lack of urgency’ by EMS shatters family

The late Hercules Viljoen.

“Could they have saved his life if they had arrived? This is a question that will haunt my wife and I, and one we will never have the answer to.” These were the sentiments shared by Ronald Shaw and his wife Maria after a family member passed away in their home in Fauna while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Ronald and Maria, who sat down for an interview with Bloemfontein Courant, explained that what they endured on that day was a nightmare. “My wife’s brother, Hercules Viljoen, suffered from stomach ulcers and kidney stones. He lived with us as he could not work because of his poor health,” said Ronald.

He explained that his brother-in-law started suffering from cramps the night before and it seemed to worsen and continued into the next day. As the suffering became unbearable and Hercules also had an epileptic attack, Ronald decided to call an ambulance because they did not have their own transport. “Around 14:00 I frantically called 1011 as in that moment I was not sure what number to dial. They told me to call 10117 and I did. We got through to them and I told them that we urgently needed help as my brother-in-law was very ill.”

According to Ronald, the operator proceeded to ask him what “the closest point” was to them. “I told them Checkers Hyper was close by and that from there I would be able to direct them to our house. They said they would call me once they get there. About two to three hours went by and I had not heard back from them. At this point I kept calling and when I eventually got through to them again I was told that I had to drop the call and try calling again so they could restart the process. No one answered the phone and this was the third time I called.

“Some time went by and someone finally called me. They asked if they should come to Checkers and I explained to them that they should rather meet me at Fauna Grocer as it was up the road from where I live. I told them that I would walk up to the shop and meet them there. They agreed to call me once they got there. I waited and waited and no one called. At this point it was too late. He had died. My wife had to watch her brother die as no help came.”

Roland told Courant that at 19:00 they were still waiting, but this time around they were waiting for the paramedics to declare Hercules dead. However, the paramedics also did not arrive.

“My neighbour suggested that I call the ward councillor and ask him to help. It did not even take 20 minutes for DA councillor David McKay to organise things and he sent someone to do the death pronouncement and to take away his body. The head of Fauna Neighbourhood Watch also came to our house to ensure that we were fine. Even the people from Forever Funeral Services, who came to fetch Hercules’ body, were so helpful. They showed so much empathy towards us and they were the people who calmed my wife down as she was in a state. Even though my brother-in-law passed away, they all tried to make the final moments a bit more bearable and for that we are very grateful.”

The spokesperson for the Free State Department of Health, Mondli Mvambi, said that they are still investigating the matter. “The Department is saddened by this unfortunate incident.”

Justine Fortuin