Safety, reliability and performance; as if life or death depends on it
When Netcare 911 receives an emergency call, the clock starts ticking. Every second counts – whether a response team is despatched to help deliver a baby, assist a heart attack victim, or treat the injuries of those hurt in a road accident. In situations such as these, reliable, safe and stable transport makes all the difference.
Netcare 911 and Volkswagen have been partners since 2005 for this very reason. “As South Africa’s leading emergency medical-services provider, with a longstanding reputation for efficiency and patient safety, we have always sought fleet vehicles that do justice to our brand’s reputation and legacy,” says Craig Grindell, Netcare 911’s chief operating officer. “Our partnership with Volkswagen has been an important one, and has assisted us in the development of an increasingly efficient service.”
Netcare 911’s fleet includes various models: the Golf 7 2.0 TDI DSG for emergency callouts; the Crafter 35 for crew transportation; and the Amarok Double Cab 2.0 TDI with 4Motion for rescue and mining operations.
It is the Transporter Crew Bus TDI DSG, however, that it uses most often. Netcare 911 has adapted and equipped its Transporters to provide critical care throughout South Africa at a moment’s notice.
Ready for action
“With a fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly turbodiesel engine, coupled with seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the Transporter is perfectly suited to meet the demands of a busy emergency service,” says Benise Kitshoff, Netcare 911 operations manager at Unitas and Pretoria East.
“Reliability is one of our key requirements. Our success depends on our vehicles being mechanically sound and, thus, reliable. The less time they have to spend in the workshop, the better for our team and patients. Our Transporters just don’t break down,” she explains.
By the time brakes or clutches have to be replaced, these vehicles have already covered thousands of kilometres. In fact, Kitshoff mentions that it isn’t unusual for Netcare 911’s Transporters to clock over 200 000 km in just two years. These are “hard” kilometres.
“The vehicles have to tackle various conditions – from tar and gravel roads to non-stop traffic on highways – in rain and shine. So stability and excellent road handling are other important requirements,” says Eduan Viljoen, a Netcare 911 paramedic.
Traction control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and the anti-lock braking system (ABS) are among the features of the Transporter that contribute to stability and safety. “We need to get to our patients safely and then transport them in the most stable and secure way possible,” notes Donavin Jagga, a Netcare 911 paramedic.
The Netcare 911 Transporters used in some rural areas are also equipped with 4Motion; Volkswagen’s permanent four-wheel drive system for solid handling, no matter the terrain.
Jagga adds that the Transporter’s other features, such as Park Distance Control and the Bluetooth cellphone preparation, also support them in doing their jobs.
Tailor-made for the task
The way in which Netcare 911 has converted its Transporters confirms the versatility of these multi-tasking vehicles. Take a look in the back and you’ll see seating for the crew and patients, a self-loading stretcher and various cabinets, where equipment is stored. It even includes built-in suction and oxygen units. “In this ambulance, you can do anything. Everything you need is within easy reach,” says Jagga.
You’ll also notice various electricity points. As requested by Netcare 911, Volkswagen has equipped this company’s Transporters with an extra battery. While one runs the engine, the other is used to power the crew’s lifesaving equipment. It also ensures that their cellphones and tablet computers, which are used for communication and administrative tasks, are charged at all times.
Most of Netcare 911’s ambulance conversions are handled by Emergency Vehicle Conversions (EVC), a Johannesburg-based company. “The primary aim, when building ambulances for Netcare 911, is the safety of the crew and patients. Patient and crew restraints are combined with furniture units and designed with safety in mind,” explains Jonathan Greenhill, EVC’s co-founder.
He mentions that the next aim is to enhance the efficiency of the crew and, thereafter, comfort for the crew and patient. “We went through a lengthy design process together with Netcare 911 to achieve these goals. The ambulance is designed to maximise efficiency from the time it arrives at the incident, with access to lifesaving equipment from both inside and outside the vehicle. The crew also has easy access to the patient and enough space to perform advanced life-support procedures.”
Greenhill says that small ambulances, such as the Transporter, have various benefits, including manoeuvrability, height clearance and the fact that only a standard licence is required. He notes that the Transporter’s dual sliding doors, air-conditioning and dual airbags just add to making it ideal as a Netcare 911 critical-care vehicle.
A solid partnership
Glen Elferink, regional key accounts manager, notes that Volkswagen and Netcare may operate in different industries, but they have a great deal in common. “Both companies are market leaders and universally recognised brands in their respective segments, with a shared pride in offering service and care first and foremost.”
According to Elferink, the relationship between these two companies is substantial due to shared values such as excellence, innovation, respect and integrity.
He concludes: “Volkswagen’s commitment to safety, reliability and solid performance, even under pressure, is aligned to Netcare’s core purpose of caring for others. We are proud of this partnership and seeing our products out there doing exactly what they were intended to do. The Transporters are helping to make every second count when it matters most.”