An emergency medical services (EMS) ambulance crew was robbed at gunpoint while on call in Khayelitsha and left ‘severely traumatised’ Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency
Cape Town - The provincial Health Department believes that hoax calls are increasingly being used to lure Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel into traps to hijack and rob them.

Deputy director of communications in the department, Mark van der Heever, said they were made aware of it after being told of concerns raised by female EMS staff members.

Four female EMS staff members said: “There were at least three incidents of hoax calls we received from Delft, Blue Downs and Lavender Hill.

"In all these incidents we were not aware it was a hoax call and went out to the area. Once we arrived in the streets and stopped at the address indicated, criminals robbed us of our personal items.

“Our greatest fear is what is going to happen if criminals decide one day that they want more than our personal items and decide to rape one of us.”

Van der Heever reiterated that the department was aware that EMS personnel were sometimes targeted by criminals during the execution of their duties and they viewed criminal attacks on staff as an extremely serious matter.

“A number of measures have been implemented in response. We do not believe that hoax calls are a widely-used practice. It may be a factor in one or two incidents but our investigations have not supported the notion that is a widely-used strategy.

“We have also found that people are calling us not to make use of us as an emergency service, but because they need to get from one place to another.”

“The abuse of resources through hoax calls could be detrimental to patients who are really in need of urgent medical attention.

“Our crews are hyper vigilant about their safety but there are vulnerable moments when they are administering patient care, when they are less aware of their surroundings than they would normally be,” Van der Heever said.

EMS members operating in the greater Khayelitsha area also said when they go out to a house at night they don’t get out of the ambulance but wait until someone from inside the house comes out. In two attacks last month, two EMS staff were held at gunpoint in Khayelitsha.

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