It is alleged that the two had responded to a maternity case call-out on Wednesday morning, just after 3am, when they were met by a man who was meant to take them to the pregnant woman.
The man got into the back of the vehicle and led the crew down a dirt road. He then produced a firearm and demanded the paramedics’ valuables.
A scuffle ensued and the man shot one of the medics in the back, while the female medic was shot in the wrist.
The medics flagged down a police van which was patrolling the area and were able to get assistance.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the attack was “sad and barbaric”.
“When incidents such as these occur, you really start to ask yourself questions. How can you tell if a call is about a real emergency? And what will happen if we stop responding to emergency calls at night? People will die because this is an essential service,” she said.
Simelane-Zulu said it was important that communities worked together with law enforcement authorities to identify criminals, so they could be removed from society.
IFP spokesperson for Health in KZN Ncamisile Nkwanyana called for law enforcement officials to escort paramedics to scenes in high-risk areas.
“The MEC must find a way to protect emergency service workers from violent crime. It is unacceptable that paramedics are expected to work in these conditions while the department fails to take action,” she said.
The president of the South African Emergency Personnel Union, Mpho Mpogeng, said paramedics should arm themselves.
“We are calling for paramedics to protect themselves. It is clear that we are on our own here, so we are calling for paramedics to arm themselves. We know that every time we make this call there are some people who complain about it,” he said.
Mpogeng said health departments were failing to protect paramedics.
“We do not want to play a blame game, but we have been saying for a while that EMS staff are under siege. All the department does is pass condolences and does nothing afterwards,” he said.
However, Adéle Kirsten of Gun Free SA (GFSA) said giving a paramedic a firearm could make the situation worse.
She said there was a need to address the root causes of such attacks.
“In most cases, these attacks are carried out by people who want the medication that ambulances have. Handing a paramedic a firearm is a knee-jerk reaction. Rather, there should be other ways of protecting medics, such as by sending them for self-defence classes.”
Kirsten said GFSA also supported the idea of getting police or private security companies to escort ambulance crews to known hot spots.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed that police were investigating charges of attempted murder and robbery.