Rescue services
Rescue services

Paramedics in a war that must be urgently resolved

By GEORGE MATLALA Time of article published Jul 2, 2019

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THE silent war being waged on paramedics should concern all of us and yet it appears law enforcement agencies are not treating it as an emergency.

The Star on Monday carried a front page story on the escalating violent attacks on emergency services staff - attacks that have been reported across the country in recent weeks.

The common denominator was that they were extremely violent and at some point involved guns.

The South African Emergency Personnel Union (Saepu) has for years been calling for better protection of its members when on duty. Sadly, the union’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears and they are threatening to withdraw their services, especially at night.

There is no price for guessing who will become collateral damage should Saepu carry out their threat - you and I, who make up the general public.

It’s shocking and deeply disappointing that these life-saving emergency paramedics now fear to go to work and save lives.

In the latest incident in Joburg, a mob from Cosmo City turned on paramedics attending to an assault case and forced them to run for their lives.

A new ambulance put on rotation to replace an ageing fleet could, however, not be saved from an angry mob.

Emergency services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi has been firm in his response. He has suspended his staff from the area until their safety can be guaranteed. It is even more disheartening that the incident happened in front of the police and is not isolated.

This is the second attack in a week on paramedics in Joburg. On Wednesday evening, City of Joburg paramedics were robbed of their belongings after they responded to an emergency in Soweto.

On the same day, paramedics in KwaZulu-Natal were also held at gunpoint and robbed while attending to a patient in Phoenix, north of Durban.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that paramedics responding to a call in KwaNoxolo, Eastern Cape, were ambushed and robbed at gunpoint.

The communities should also shoulder blame for the rise of this madness. These incidents are not happening in secret. It is their civic duty to fish out the rotten apples among them that threaten to deny them services.

Police must also come up with urgent comprehensive safety plans for paramedics.

It must not take death to yank them into action.

* George Matlala is Independent Media's Gauteng Political Editor.

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