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They dedicate their lives to making people healthy, but doctors who work in the Western Cape public healthcare sector say they are not getting the protection they need after a spate of attacks have again raised the issue of hospital security.
At one of the province’s busiest hospitals – GF Jooste in Manenberg - a female doctor had her nose broken by an aggressive patient while a student doctor’s car was stolen from the hospital premises under the noses of security guards.
More recently, a young doctor received trauma counselling after he was mugged at gunpoint at the hospital. Now doctors and nurses say they work in fear and don’t feel safe.
Those working at Tygerberg Hospital and GF Jooste say security remains lax despite the attacks and threats they regularly receive.
Some admitted to carrying pepper spray to work as a precautionary measure due to escalating crime, while others said they had become “paranoid” following the armed robbery of two doctors.
A Stellenbosch University final-year medical student was robbed by a knife-wielding man at Tygerberg Hospital at the weekend.
Health Department spokeswoman Faiza Steyn said the man, in his 30s, took the student by surprise when she entered her sleeping quarters on Saturday. The student was uninjured.
The attack happened hardly a week after a young doctor from GF Jooste was robbed at gunpoint in the hospital’s car park.
Doctors and medical students who spoke to the Cape Argus on condition of anonymity, said the incidents had left them rattled. They were concerned as to who would be the next victim.
“We are all worried about the issue of security in our hospitals. GF Jooste is probably one of the most dangerous hospitals to work in. We work with very violent psychiatric patients who are unpredictable and can attack any time.
“People’s cars have been stolen, doctors at the casualty (ward) get assaulted all the time. Every time an incident happens hospital managers say we must put it on paper, but nothing ever gets done,” said a doctor.
Steyn admitted assault and verbal abuse was rife, especially in psychiatric hospitals. She said the department recorded 358 incidents of crime within its health facilities between April and September last year. These included assault, theft, disorderly behaviour and damage to property.
But she denied allegations that security in hospitals was not up to scratch, saying that the department spent more than R90 million each year on access control, surveillance cameras and motion detectors.