Shot fired by doctor in Ladysmith ambulance altercation

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An altercation between a doctor – the owner of a private ambulance service – and a paramedic of another ambulance service resulted in a bullet being fired and the gun pointed at the paramedic, says a Daily News report. The doctor’s firearm has been seized by the police.

The report says the drama unfolded in the parking lot at Ladymith’s La Verna Private Hospital, part of the Lenmed Health group of private hospitals. A witness, also involved in the business, said a Sharaj Ambulance paramedic went to the hospital to fetch two patients to be transferred to another hospital. “When the paramedics arrived, they found one patient but the other was not known at the hospital. After loading the patient, they approached a private ambulance, also parked in the same area, and then returned to their ambulance and left,” the witness said.

According to the report, she said the altercation happened when the Sharaj Ambulance returned to La Verna after transferring the patient. “There was some pushing and exchange of words, and I saw the doctor walking to his car. On his way back, he drew a gun and fired a shot in the air and pointed the gun at the Sharaj paramedic.

“It’s a good thing that no one was hurt, but it is concerning that a doctor would be in possession of a gun at a hospital. They (guns and other weapons) are not allowed in hospitals, private and public,” said the witness.

The report says the paramedic refused to comment. A source alleged that the doctor’s ambulance service had “stolen” the missing patient and claimed to know nothing when questioned by the Sharaj paramedic.

Sharaj Mahabeer, owner of Sharaj Ambulances, said: “The doctor practises at the same hospital and also owns the ambulance company in question. If we serve the public, there’s no need for animosity among service providers. Most of all, I’m disappointed that a firearm had to be discharged on the hospital premises,” he said.

The doctor did not deny the incident, but would not comment. He said that the matter was under police investigation.

Dr Vusi Memela, a Board of Healthcare Funders member and principal officer at Hosmed medical scheme, said in the report that the failure to regulate private ambulance companies posed a danger. He said there was a need for a body to do site inspections.

“Companies should have qualified paramedics with basic and advanced life support qualifications, because attending to patients is not only about transporting them to hospitals,” Memela said.

He said medical schemes had designated service providers who obtained a pre-authorisation number before moving a patient from one facility to another. “Private ambulance services are unregulated. Patients’ lives are at risk. You could be transported in a vehicle that lacks proper equipment or qualified personnel,” Memela said.

The report says it had previously been indicated that there were 64 active ambulance services operating in KZN. The companies apparently charged not less than R2,000 to transport patients to hospital, claiming from medical aid schemes and the Road Accident Fund.

According to the report, Lenmed Health group chief medical officer Dr Nilesh Patel said the hospital security had contained the weekend’s situation and the matter had been reported to the police. Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said they were investigating two cases of common assault and the discharge of a firearm in a built-up area.

Daily News report

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