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24h Emergency: 082 911 | General Contact: 0860 002 378

Jul 14, 2020

You wouldn’t ask a lifesaver to rescue you from a puddle, so why would you call an ambulance when you stump your toe? Believe it or not, some people have taken advantage of emergency services for the most ridiculous things, wasting both precious time and resources when lives could have been saved. But what then is considered a true medical emergency?


It’s safe to say that if an injury or illness is not life threatening or may cause permanent harm, you don’t need to call an ambulance. A good rule of thumb is if a person can walk, talk and interact, the chances are that it’s not a medical emergency.

Minor burns, mild allergies, or simple wounds could be treated at home or with the advice from a pharmacist, for example. You could make an appointment at your health care professional for coughs and colds, mild skin irritations and tummy bugs if self-medication is not helping. If you need to visit a doctor or emergency room for anything that is not life-threatening, don’t let the patient drive.

Bestmed offers over-the-counter medication from savings on certain Beat and Pace options, and has a dedicated network of service providers to help you.

Real medical emergencies

An ambulance should be called in a true medical emergency only: when someone is severely injured or their life is threatened. Examples of real emergencies include:

  • Bleeding that does not stop after applying pressure for 15 minutes
  • Wounds from firearms or weapons
  • Severe burns
  • Increasing effort or trouble breathing
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Choking
  • Electrocution
  • Poisoning
  • Seizures that last more than two minutes, especially in someone with no prior history of a seizure
  • Loss of consciousness or unresponsive behaviour
  • Heart attack symptoms: long-lasting chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Stroke symptoms: slurred speech, confusion, weakness in part of the body, vision loss and sudden numbness
  • Fever in a newborn or baby under 3 months
  • High fever with a stiff neck or rash
  • A head injury
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe bone fractures
  • Worsening chronic illness, such as asthma and diabetes
  • Venomous bites

It’s always best to call your health care professional or an ambulance if you’re unsure in a situation. Paramedics will be able to treat a patient on the way to the hospital, arriving quicker and safer than if you had to drive there yourself. Bestmed members are fully covered for emergency evacuations when using ER24. Call 084 124 for 24-hour emergency assistance.

SA’s Constitution, Bestmed and emergencies

Section 27(3) of the South African Constitution states that “no one may be refused emergency medical treatment.” By law, if you are in a life-threatening condition, you will be initially treated at the nearest appropriate medical facility. If the hospital happens to be a non-designated service provider, you will be moved to your scheme’s nearest designated service provider when you’re stabilised and it’s safe to move you. Bestmed will cover this.

You may have to foot the bill though if it turns out that your condition doesn’t need emergency treatment, or isn’t a Prescribed Minimum Benefit (PMB). So, be careful before you dial an ambulance…Ask yourself: Is it a true medical emergency, or will my bruised ego from finding a grey hair heal on its own?

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