Paramedics back on duty

A number of EMS staff in Lentegeur refused to attend to calls, citing a lack of personal protective equipment amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mitchell’s Plain paramedics temporarily stood down on Saturday April 4 to illustrate their upset over the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

This came hours after they found out that a patient they had attended to had tested positive for Covid-19.

On Tuesday March 31, two paramedics responded to a call to transport a woman to Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital. They wore masks and gloves as the patient was not a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus.

On Friday April 3, her test results were revealed.

Deanna Bessick, spokeswoman for Province’s emergency medical services (EMS) and forensic pathology services, said the two paramedics who attended to the call were back on duty and continuing with their usual shifts.

She said EMS officials had been given the necessary training before the pandemic hit South Africa.

“Extra precaution is always taken when loading a patient. When responding to incidents that are suspected cases, paramedics practise the precautionary measures they were trained to implement.”

She said EMS officials at the Lentegeur facility refused to attend to calls due to concerns about their two colleagues.

“After management explained the situation, they are continuing with their shifts as per usual,” said Ms Bessick.

A paramedic who refused to be named told the Plainsman that they understood there was a worldwide shortage of PPE but wanted to hear from their managers what procedures were in place to protect them and their families.

Over the weekend, paramedics attended to close to 100 emergencies in Tafelsig and Beacon Valley – both areas are considered high risk for violence and require police escort.

The provincial Department of Health’s EMS responded to 3 691 incidents, including 98 in red-zone areas, most of which occurred in Mitchell’s Plain, where ambulance crews are not allowed to enter without escort.

There were 62 motor vehicle accidents.

The top 10 incident types include 702 cases of non-cardiac pain; 452 respiratory complaints; 400 obstetric complaints; 250 abdominal complaints; 207 vomiting or diarrhoea; 184 musculoskeletal complaints; 153 fever; 146 weapon assault and 114 cases of convulsions.

Most patients were transported to the Worcester, George and Tygerberg hospitals.

EMS director Dr Shaheem de Vries said: “We remain grateful to the brave EMS men and women who go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the Western Cape a healthy province, especially during these trying times.

“We urge the whole-of-society to partner with our officials as they render this important service in communities,” he said.