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Day in the life of a medic: not for the faint-hearted

Opinion

Being targeted by relentless criminals is destroying the passion and determination that drives medics to go out and do what they do best, says ER24's Werner Vermaak.


It feels like a cold 50 cent coin being pushed into the back of my neck. Not knowing what this sensation is, I turn around and stare straight into the barrel of a gun. Now I am the one pleading not to be killed. Trying to figure out what is happening and when I will be shot.

The only words I could hear were: “Leave him, he must die!”

The more I try to make sense of it all, the closer the barrel is pointed in my face.

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ER24 paramedics arrive at the scene of a fatal crash. It has become a norm for medics to be attacked, says the writer. Picture: ER24

No, this will not kill my passion.

Ask a medic and he or she will tell you that it is a calling to work on the road helping people.

This was an unusual event and was definitely not the norm when it happened.

Sadly, however, this is becoming the norm for many medics working in South Africa.

Over the past two years, they have been the target for relentless criminals. They get away with it - or at least most of them do.

You can’t tell me that the community does not know who these individuals are.

Somewhere along the line these thugs brag about what they have done.

If it’s merely an initiation to membership of a gang, who knows.

Whatever the reason, it is destroying the passion and determination that drives medics to go out and do what they do best.

What joy do they get from taking advantage of someone who comes to their aid?

Yes, a company can replace equipment and vehicles, but only up to a point.

You have to draw the line somewhere.

Recently some areas in the Western Cape were classified as red zones, or no-go areas for paramedics without police support.

It may be beneficial to the medics and provide them some sort of security, but it is the communities themselves that will suffer in the end.

Sadly, the first to complain about lack of access to emergency care would probably be the ones that are most likely responsible for the ban in the first place.

We have to stretch an already valued police resource and ask them to protect our lifesavers.

We hear the outcry from the public: “Give the medics self-defence training” or “Let them carry weapons”.

Are we then not perpetuating the violence? The community should feel the need to report these opportunistic attackers to the police and become part of a community solution. Let the medics work freely and focus on providing the care they are trained to provide.

We recognise the risk to our ER24 paramedics and as such we have a structure to assist the team should they have experienced a traumatic incident.

This includes counselling and various specialised training courses that assist them in their duties.

We think it is important for communities to work together and report these types of incidents.

We understand that members of the community may fear repercussions of reporting these criminals and we thus encourage them to make use of the anonymous tip-off line and report it to Crime Line on 32211 or call the police on 10111.

Together we can create a healthier community.

* Werner Vermaak is ER24 manager: communications.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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