The Provincial Department of Health has announced that attacks on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff have become more frequent, with at least two incidents a week.
A total of 232 EMS staff have been attacked between 2012 and 2016. This was revealed during a briefing by the department in the Provincial Parliament yesterday, Tuesday February 7.
DA provincial spokesperson for health Lorraine Botha said most of the incidents take place over weekends at night. Incidents range from attempted hijacking, physical assault, stoning of ambulances and a host of other issues.
According to the department alcohol and drugs plays a major role in the attacks, especially in Nyanga, Philippi, and Khayelitsha where most of the incidents occurred.
The provincial report indicated the red zones in the province. This is where attacks are most likely to take place. It means that EMS staff are only permitted to enter the areas under a police escort.
“This is leading to EMS vehicles being forced to wait at police stations instead of attending to patients,” she said.
In Mitchell’s Plain, Tafelsig is classified as a red zone, other areas are Philippi, Nyanga, New Crossroads, Gugulethu, Heideveld, Khayelitsha Site C, Mandela Park, Kalksteenfontein and Hanover Park.
MEC for Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, said in order to solve the issue regarding attacks on the health professionals, it needs the a whole society approach. “This is not only an attack on the EMS staff but on the community as well. You need the security, the police, the CPF, neighbourhood watch, the religious fraternity, councillors and ward committee members involved,” she said.
Head of the Health Department’s Emergency Medical Services, Shaheem de Vries, said SAPS assistance is needed. “The community need to stand together and say enough is enough.It is concerning that our paramedics are being attacked this is through robberies, stoning, and are threatened at gunpoint. When they rob the members the thieves are taking their cellphones and wallets and are left traumatised,” he said.
Mr de Vries said the attacks have increased over the past few years. He added that paramedics feel unsafe when working and some often leave due to their safety.
Provincial manager Phumzile Papu said because of the incidents some of the 25 EMS staff have left the service thus far.
“There is a concern that the ambulance will not attend to your call, but they will, they have to. If it is a red zone area then paramedics will have to be escorted by the police to ensure their safety and the patient’s safety,” he said.
In the report it stated planned interventions for paramedics in the field. Regarding staff members, they are not allowed to use their own discretion when responding to red zones. Then, not to use their cellphones when responding and to adhere to the load and go policy. It also states that planned interventions included meetings with specific station commanders as per red zones and sharing of information.