How Ambulances/EMS Work (Cape Town)


Aug 23, 2006
Hi all,

I get PM's daily asking me questions about ambulances related stuff, EMS etc and I don't mind answering but I've sat down and thought about creating a thread specifically for Cape Town to answer some of the common questions I get and explain things.

This thread will probably grow and go on but just keep in mind, I'm not speaking FOR my service (because I'm not the spokes person) but I am just telling you how it is and I do love my service because we are an amazing service - keep another thought in your mind, this is for Cape Town - each location seems to work differently.

What are the correct emergency numbers to call?

Good question to ask - first question - WHAT TYPE OF EMERGENCY?

1. Do you need the fire brigade?
2. Do you need SAPS?
3. Do you need an ambulance?

If you answered yes to 1 - you call from a landline 107 or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.
If you answered yes to 2 - you call the nearest police station or 10111 (I personally have the number for the closest police station on my cellphone with 10111 as a secondary)
If you answered yes to 3 - now, let's chat...

do YOU have medical aid?
Who is the PREFERRED EMS provider for your medical aid? Call them.

If you don't have medical aid - call 10177 (Metro EMS) like everyone else does.
If you do have medical aid, call anyone of the private EMS services in Cape Town who are (in no particular order):

1. Netcare 911 - 082911
2. ER24 - 084124
3. Melomed - 0800786000
4. SA Paramedics Services - 0861225599
5. ResQ Medix - 0861628000 (Serving the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town)
6. Immediate Medical - 0715016007 (Somerset West, Stellenbosch etc)
7. EMO - 0729966337 (Somerset West, Stellenbosch etc)

I've probably missed a few but will add as I remember them.

You must decide on the closest ambulance to call - If I'm going to call an ambulance for someone on medical aid - I personally would call ER24 because they have way more ambulances in Cape Town than Netcare 911 do but at the end of the day, if you on medical aid, call them both - whomever gets to you first will treat and transport you - hell - if the call is so serious, they'll help each other treat your loved one and then transport when stable.

When I call 10177 or 107 - why do I wait so long?

Easy - Because there are 100000000000000 people calling those numbers - just be patient - on weekends - it's even worse! :(

Imagine the following:

A person calls in for an ambulance, she can't speak a word of english - the call taker must now figure out what language the caller speaks, then find a person who can speak that language - then once that person is found, now the person must relax and give CORRECT information to the call taker - this my friend can take anything up to 10 to 15 minutes.
Most people when they calling for an ambulance are in a complete panic, they stressed, they giving wrong addresses, wrong contact numbers - it's madness - then when the call taker is asking for information - they don't even know where they live! But remember, when they are struggling with this person - you are waiting for the next available agent.
There are not 100000000 call takers - there are at most probably 20 - then about 20 dispatchers who rely on the call takers to take the information as accurately and as fast as possible.

Keep in mind the estimated population in Cape Town is 3.74 million - let's say there is 150 ambulances at a given time on in Cape Town - you do the math people - the ratio is 25000± to 1 ambulance.

Take into consideration the attacks on EMS staff currently happening, how ambulances have to wait for police escorts to go into certain areas - the "lightbulb" moment just happened hey?

Now something interesting!

When you call 107 - that is a separate call centre to 10177 - what 107 does is, they take the call and then give it to 10177.
If the information taken by the call taker on 107 is wrong, they give that wrong information to 10177 - so if we (10177) dispatch an ambulance to X address and the ambulance get's there and finds nothing, we have to check the information provided, if the number is wrong, we need to check with 107 if they have more information - this can delay things - so the best advice I can give you here is, when you call - give correct information and contact numbers so if we need to call you back, we can.

When I call an ambulance - what information must I give the call taker

First, your return contact number - if someone close is nearby, give that number too.
Give a full name of the person calling.
Give a correct address - if you don't know the address, find out what it is - give landmarks - help us find you - if you're freaking out - give the phone to someone else.
Tell us the truth about what is wrong / happening with the patient in the best way you know how - also, tell the call taker any past medical history - does the patient suffer from asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, high blood problems etc.
Once you hang up - send someone to stand outside and wait for the ambulance because 90% of houses/flats don't have numbers on and/or are visible to us when we arrive.
Are there cars parked in the drive way blocking easy access - move the bloody cars!!!
Are gates locked? Go open them!!!
Do you have pets (such as dogs) that could attack us? move them - remember, there are STRANGERS coming...
If we have to bring in a stretcher - can we get to the patient? Move furniture around so we don't have too - and if we do and break something, don't start blaming us.
Pack all the necessary for the patient, medications, extra cloths, ID's, medical aid cards etc.

We want to arrive, enter, access, treat, load and transport to hospital - not wait for you to get things together.

I've called an ambulance - how long will it take?

From the moment your call reaches 10177 - we have 15 minutes - take into mind it takes about 2/3 minutes to get the call onto our system (information YOU provide) - but once we have the address, the call is given to a dispatcher and it's on him/her to send the next available ambulance.

We break our calls down into the following:

P1 aka Priority 1's

Heart attacks
Asthma attacks
Diabetics Comas
Kids under a certain age (can't remember the age right now)
Incidents in public places (like a patient having a seizure)
Car accidents aka MVA's or MVC's

The list goes on and on... It's not hard for calls to given P1 status - depends on the information as well that YOU as the call provide to us.

As far as I understand it, private EMS work on the assumption that EVERY CALL they receive is a P1 because well - if it's not - you're still going to pay for the call.

P2 aka Priority 2's
These are most other calls, not serious calls like "you have had a cough for a week and want to goto hospital"

Other services to consider

In Cape Town, we have a few volunteer services that can also come and treat you when you having a medical emergency - how they each function is different but I'm going to list them anyways;

1. Community Medics - 0872300404 - They currently have three response vehicles, covering Atlantic Seaboard (Camps Bay, Green Point and Sea Point areas) , City bowl (Cape Town CBD, Bo-Kaap, Higgovale, Tamboerskloof and Vredehoek areas) and Table View (Big Bay, Parklands and Tableview areas) areas and I believe they are starting or have started a vehicle that works in the Plumstead area of Cape Town.

2. Hout Bay Volunteers - Don't have a number, sorry - they service the Hout Bay area of Cape Town - but do venture out of the area if needed - they normally call in service with EMS and we dispatch them.
3. False Bay Volunteers - Don't have a number, sorry - they service the False Bay area of Cape Town - but do venture out the area if needed - they normally call in service with EMS and we dispatch them.
4. Lima Charlie 1 (Life Healthcare's Paramedic response vehicle) - 0860532532 - They have 1 ALS response car
5. Generic Paramedics - Don't have a number, sorry - they from the Hout Bay area but they call in service with EMS and we dispatch them to calls.
6. CSO or Community Security Organization - 0861891118 - CSO mission statement is "To protect jewish life and the jewish way of life"

Most of the above mentioned services are all connected in some form or another, be it via a Whastapp group or Zello.

Keep in mind, they all ASSIST us (Metro EMS) with calls - so if you call them, they'll most probably the information you give them, if they are available - come to your aid, if they are busy (maybe on another call) then they'll give the call to whatever service they deem can service the call - ultimately, in most cases, Metro EMS will come and transport the patient unless you have medical aid then they'll get a private EMS ambulance to come and transport if one is available.

I was in a car accident and was treated and transported by a private service but I can't afford it

It gets interesting here - If you can't pay, you can't pay - all private EMS ambulances will claim from the RAF (Road Accident Fund) for any car type accidents regardless - they will try get their money from you.
Private services have to declare to you though that if you don't have medical aid, you will have to pay cash or make another plan, remember, it's private - how else do they make money?
Doesn't matter who transports you to hospital, be it GOVERNMENT or PRIVATE - you're going to get billed - there is no FREE service.
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Aug 23, 2006
Do you respond in your private capacity to calls

If I get called via cellphone or if I hear the call via the radio and If it's in the area then I'll goto the call - to fit my car with lights and sirens will cost R15000± and I can't afford that.
Then there is the rest of the stuff - but the first bump is not having the money.
My jump bag and necessary go everywhere with me. :)

Any cellphone apps I can use for emergencies

Yes, I personally like "mySOS" - check it out at

I want to volunteer, how do I?

To volunteer with most EMS services, you need the following:

1. You need to have your code 8 or 10 with PrDP (most private EMS require the code 8 - Metro EMS need code 10)
2. You need to have a medical qualification like a BLS, ILS, ECT or ALS (BTECH etc) AND registered with the HPCSA

Contact the service in question and then they deal with you accordingly.

If you have a first aid level 1 or 3 - you can do "ride along" shifts with most services - but only a few - few has in probably 1 or 2 or 3 - this way you get exposure to EMS.
I know most private places don't allow ride alongs but you can always try and ask - never hurts to ask.

Metro EMS wasn't taking on volunteers - but the volunteer policy has been FINALLY completed and soon we'll be taking on volunteers - but how it's going to be done is another story - at this moment in time, I do not know anything.

My company wants to arrange us to do first aid level 1, where should we go?

Please don't waste your time doing a first aid level 1, go straight to a level 3 because first aid level 3 is level 1 and 'some' extra stuff.
Doing a 1 IMO is a waste of money.
As for where? There are quite a few places in Cape Town that do it - too many actually.
If you asking for MY opinion:

Clint Cronning - amazing guy - worked at Ambutek teaching BAA's for years!
Now does his own thing; BASIC LIFE SUPPORT CONSULTANTS on Cell : 0794770001 or E-Mail –

Anything else? Ask...
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Honorary Master
Mar 27, 2007
great advice

i think i should add that if there is a life threatening emergency (life or limb) than any ambulance service can be called and any hospital used, regardless of having medical aid or not.

however, if a private hospital is used, once the condition of the patient is considered stable and there is no medical aid, then the patient will be transferred to a state hospital for further treatment.
the hospital will charge for the service they provided, they are not permitted to reject emergency admissions but do have the right to charge for the service they provided at the time.
by law hospitals with casualty facilities have to accept emergency patients, no matter thier financial status, medical aid etc.

people also have the misconception that metro rescue / ambulance services are inferior to netcare, er24 etc.
this is untrue, as metro see a much higher volume and variety of cases on a daily basis than the private services - and with that comes a higher level of experience.
i refer here to cape town, i cannot comment on other provinces.