Every night at 8pm when the far south claps, cheers and blows vuvuzelas in support of health workers, the Cape Medical Response team is listening.
“We cannot tell you how good it feels to know that we have your support. You give us strength,” says Darren Zimmerman, managing director of the far south’s dedicated medical response service.
In recent weeks, following the Covid-19 outbreak, the service has ramped up its sanitising and sterilising protocols and protection measures, and although many of its administrative staff are working from home, according to Mr Zimmerman, their online network is working well.
“We’re available to assist any medical emergency 24/7 and our passion and spirit remains high.”
He encourages residents to stay informed about Covid-19.
“We will overcome this together,” he says.
It was 19 years last week that CMR was founded. It happened after an off-duty paramedic saved the life of a young girl in Simon’s Town who was seriously sick in 2000.
At the time, says Mr Zimmerman, the average response time to a critical medical emergency in the far south was about an hour as Metro ambulances had to come from Pinelands and the closest private ambulance was in Claremont.
Today, he says, the average response time for critical cases is eight to 10 minutes and the team deals with an average of 20 emergency call-outs a day.
The incident in 2000 prompted a group of locals to explore the possibility of starting a local 24-hour private paramedic service. CMR was officially launched on April 1 2001.
David Behr, the off-duty paramedic who saved the young girl’s life a year earlier, was the first paramedic to be employed by CMR.
Households pay a monthly membership fee to CMR rather than being billed high fees when needed.
As membership increased so did the cases and the need for additional staff, vehicles and resources.
CMR director and one of the original founding members, Giles Conradie, says an often quoted motivational phrase to keep going in the early days was “nothing worth doing is easy”.
It took a few years, he says, before they were certain the service would be fully sustainable.
In 2005 CMR outgrew its premises at 97a Kommetjie Road in Fish Hoek and moved to 106 Kommetjie Road, adding a third response vehicle. In 2008, it took delivery of its first ambulance, a gift from the Rotary Club of Newlands, and it started offering CMR members an ambulance-transport service where it previously used whichever state or private ambulance it could get to the scene, which sometimes resulted in long delays.
Later that year, it added a second ambulance and extended its operation areas to Kalk Bay and Muizenberg.
In 2016 its first 24-hour control centre became operational and has since increased in size.
CMR’s operational area includes Fish Hoek, Noordhoek, Chapman’s Bay, Kommetjie, Scarborough, Masiphumelele, Ocean View, Lakeside, Muizenberg, St James, Kalk Bay, Glencairn, Simon’s Town, Boulders, Millers Point and Cape Point.
CMR now has more than 40 staff, four ambulances, four response vehicles, and two special- events vehicles.
“We’ve worked very hard to create the first-world service,” says Mr Zimmerman.
* In case of an emergency, call the CMR 24-hour medical emergency number at 082 782 4444 or 021 782 4444. Call the office at 021 782 0606 during office hours or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.cmr-med.co.za