Govt plans to scrap EMS training system - DA

Mike Waters says move would seriously harm ability to train emergency medical services personnel

Decision to scrap emergency medical services training system must be reversed

Following a meeting with industry insiders, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has discovered that the ANC government, in conjunction with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), plan to scrap the three tier Emergency Medical Services (EMS) short courses system, which currently accounts for 99% of all trained staff in the EMS. Experts believe that this may prompt the complete collapse of the EMS training system in South Africa.

The HPCSA has embarked on a process to scrap the short courses by the end of 2014, with the first and second tier being phased out by the end of this year. They propose that all training of EMS personnel will now become the responsibility of universities of technology. However, by volume, these institutions account for approximately 1% of the current trained personnel, meaning that, there will almost certainly be a lack of capacity to train those that were trained by the short course system previously. This move may significantly reduce the country's ability to produce enough qualified EMS professionals.

The Department of Health, through the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), says it is necessary to scrap the short courses system due this system not meeting the requirements of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). We believe this is misguided. The short course system clearly meets the requirements of NQF level 7 qualifications; that is, to become a paramedic, based on the hours of practical training involved over and above their theoretical content.

We understand that the industry is up in arms over the move, but that even though the ANC government has been engaged over this matter, the decision to scrap the short course system has not been reversed.

The South African Private Ambulance and Emergency Services Association (SAPAESA) remain adamant that the training provided through these private institutions using the short course system has made South Africa one of the best and most comprehensive EMS qualifications in the world. We agree. These courses have been evolving to meet ever changing demands and to accommodate our unique needs. Indeed, so successful is the current system, that many South Africans qualified through the short course system are recruited by other countries. The last thing we should be doing with these courses is stopping them.

This move in effect would eliminate functional private sector training institutions that were assisting the country to meet demands for skills. In turn, the move will place enormous pressure on the country's universities of technology. The question has to be asked: if the current system isn't broken, why is the ANC government trying to fix it? The seriousness of the skills shortage in this country's health sector must not be met with irrational and unviable decisions, especially when such a move could impede service delivery. Furthermore, no feasibility or impact study has ever been employed by the HPCSA or government, to assess the impact that scrapping the EMS courses will have on the EMS.

I will be writing to the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, seeking urgent intervention in this matter and, as a further step will request that the Chairperson of Parliament's health committee invites the Department of Health to brief the committee on this matter.

Statement issued by Mike Waters, MP, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of health, May 17 2010

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter