Paramedics taught self-defence when on call-outs

Durban - One of the biggest emergency services companies in South Africa has had to train its staff on how to deal with threats on their own lives while trying to save the lives of others.

ER24 spokeswoman, Chitra Bodasing Harduth, said their emergency services personnel had been victims to attacks, robberies and hijackings while responding to calls for help.

Emergency Medical Support in Hostile Environments is an ER24 course designed to teach emergency personnel various skills, such as identifying hostile environments, how to deal with situations and, if the need arose, how to defend themselves and the patient.

Fortunately, none had lost their lives in these incidents which occured at scenes while they were attending to patients or on their way to or at the hospital.

“There have been incidents where criminals have posed as fake patients in order to attack and rob staff. Emergency personnel are called upon to help people in their greatest time of need,” said Harduth.

Attacks on EMS crews had been going on for a long time, however, these crimes had started increasing a few years ago, she said.

State paramedics had also been victims of violence while on the job. In April, two paramedics were attacked and hijacked while attending a scene in the Sinathing area near Edendale, Pietermaritzburg.

After this incident, the Department of Health stopped paramedics from attending to medical emergencies in the area.

Two months earlier, paramedics trying to locate the address of an assault victim in uMlazi were robbed by six armed men.

To safeguard their staff, ER24 launched a course called Emergency Medical Support in Hostile Environments.

Peter van der Spuy, a manager at ER24, said the aim of the course was to teach staff various skills such as identifying hostile environments, how to deal with these situations and – if the need arose – how to defend themselves and their patients.

ER24 also worked closely with the police to keep up to date with trends and hot spots.