Healthcare’s remarkable men and women won’t be taking it easy this holiday season

South Africans more vulnerable to injury or illness during the holiday season

Thursday, December 13 2018

As South Africans take to the roads en route to their vacation destinations to enjoy the attractions of our beautiful country or to visit loved ones during the coming festive season, they can rest assured that there will be many guardian angels watching out for them.

“There are many remarkable men and women working in the healthcare industry in our country. They live to serve, to save lives and to turn tragedy into triumph whenever possible. Because of the nature of their chosen vocation they understand only too well that work does not stop during the festive season, and will be on duty while many are on holiday,” says Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s Hospital division.

“Every year thousands of lives are positively touched thanks to the work of doctors, nurses and paramedics. Much of this happens during the festive season, sometimes on important public holidays and in the small hours of the morning. This is the time of year when we all want to be with our families however, as always, the needs of our patients come first, and we owe our healthcare professionals a debt of gratitude for being there in our hour of need.”

“Our hospitals will be busy, especially our emergency departments, and we will ensure that we are sufficiently resourced so that our patients can count on the same high quality care that they receive throughout the year,” assures Du Plessis.

Commenting on the forthcoming holiday season, Shalen Ramduth, Netcare 911’s director: business development and support services, says that experience over the years has shown that this is an especially busy time on the roads, which unfortunately often leads to an increase in the number of serious and often tragic road accidents. Netcare 911 will therefore be bolstering resources to react promptly to calls for emergency medical assistance.

“We will, for example, deploy additional ambulances, advanced life support response vehicles, our rapid specialised extrication units and emergency care practitioners at various points along the N3 highway between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. In addition to being ready to provide prompt emergency medical and rescue assistance to the public where needed, we hope that the high-visibility of the Netcare 911 team will help to keep road safety top of mind among road users and thereby contribute to preventing some accidents.” Additionally, Netcare 911 has stationed two ICU equipped medical evacuation helicopters at Rand Airport in Germiston, two at Virginia Airport in Durban and two at Cape Town International Airport in the Western Cape. These lifesaving resources will be available throughout the festive period 24 hours a day.

Ramduth, who is an experienced advanced life support paramedic, adds that many people are more adventurous and open to experimentation while on holiday, often embarking on activities they would not usually undertake. Such activities could result in greater risk of illness and physical injury. “People are also known to be more vulnerable during the holiday season, particularly when outside their familiar home environment,” he cautions.

  • Holiday rescue stories from the Netcare 911 case files

Johannes Pieterse
Someone who can attest to falling seriously ill while on holiday is Johannes Pieterse, 47, from Johannesburg. He was holidaying with his family in the coastal town of Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal and was fortunate that good medical help was at hand to deliver life-saving care when he suffered a heart attack during the height of the festive season. 

After taking ill on New Year’s Day he consulted general practitioner, Dr Ryall Hamlyn, who performed some tests to establish the reason for his chest pains. However, while resting on a couch in the doctors’ waiting room, Mr Pieterse started gasping for air and collapsed.

Another patient who was in the waiting room ran across the road to the Netcare 911 base at Netcare Alberlito Hospital to summon assistance and a paramedic crew immediately responded. Intermediate life support paramedic, Donny Govender, and basic life support paramedic, Sundheer Singh, took over CPR while Dr Hamlyn briefed them on the patient’s condition. Seconds later, advanced life support paramedic, Shaun Paul, arrived to attend to the critically ill patient.

Mr Pieterse was later diagnosed with an inferior myocardial infarction, meaning that one of the main arteries of the heart had become blocked, resulting in a heart attack.

“I woke up in hospital and a stent was inserted to clear and support the artery that was blocked. I am so grateful to Dr Hamlyn, Netcare 911 and the doctors and nurses at Netcare Alberlito Hospital for saving my life. If not for them, I would probably not have lived to see more than the first day of 2018,” says Pieterse.

Stuart Groves
Another person who benefitted from life-saving care during a family holiday is 16-year-old Stuart Groves who collapsed on an uMhlanga beach. Off-duty Netcare 911 regional operations manager for KwaZulu-Natal, Gary Paul, and a colleague heard an urgent notification come through from the Netcare 911 contact centre, alerting paramedics to the medical emergency. Realising their proximity to the scene, Gary and his colleague immediately headed there and arrived within four minutes to find the lifeguards performing CPR.

“Stuart’s heart had stopped beating and he had no vital signs. We immediately began performing advanced life support, and a doctor who happened to be on the beach at the time came over and also offered her assistance,” Paul says.

Some 40 minutes later, after the Netcare 911 team had administered a series of therapeutic electrical shocks, known as defibrillations, Stuart finally began breathing on his own. Once Stuart was stable enough, the paramedics transported him to the emergency department at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital where an experienced team of doctors and trauma nurses were waiting to receive Stuart.

The very next morning Stuart was already able to open his eyes and within a few days he was fully conscious. The teenager spent 19 days in the intensive care unit. Stuart was subsequently diagnosed with a genetic heart defect known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, whereby the wall of the left ventricle of the heart becomes thickened, and was fitted with an internal defibrillator to restart his heart in case he ever experiences a similar cardiac event in future.

“Whenever you find yourself in trouble or where people are hurt and in need of urgent medical attention do not hesitate to call Netcare 911. We will, as always, be on high alert during this coming festive season,” concludes Ramduth.

Advice from Netcare 911

What to do when reporting an emergency: Dial 082 911. When the call is answered, begin by stating ‘I have an emergency…’. Give your name and contact number clearly so that we will have a means of contacting you. Immediately state whether it is a life-threatening situation and be specific about the nature of your emergency. Give your exact location and the physical address or location where the individuals requiring assistance can be found.

Technology is making it easier to call for assistance in the event of an emergency, and a partnership between Netcare 911 and mySOS emergency mobile application is helping emergency medical practitioners to pinpoint the location of people requiring their assistance. 

In an emergency, the mySOS app sends an alert to Netcare 911’s national emergency operations centre, or to other relevant emergency services, and to your selected loved ones to show them your GPS location. The app also makes a phone call to Netcare 911, or the most appropriate service provider for the type of emergency encountered, so that assistance is mobilised in the shortest possible time. The mySOS app can be downloaded for free from


Issued by:            Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare 911
Contact:               Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, and Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone:          (011) 469 3016
Email:                    [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]