Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Minister of Health. File Photo: Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his counterpart, Police Minister Bheki Cele will on Friday visit the Letaba Hospital in Tzaneen, Limpopo where three doctors were severely attacked in their hospital residence.

"This barbaric attack on doctors should be condemned in the strongest terms possible. But more than that, the law enforcement agencies should be mobilised to ensure that those behind the attacks are apprehended and brought to justice," said Motsoaledi.

"We view the attack on our medical professionals as a declaration of war on the state and the citizens of the republic. We cannot treat this serious violation of the law as just another act of criminality. In this regard, we have escalated the matter to the national minister of police."

Motsoaledi and Cele will be at the hospital "to get first-hand information about what happened and what should be done to ensure swift reaction".

Police in Limpopo have launched a manhunt for a group of about five heavily armed men who shot two doctors and stabbed the third one.

The gang reportedly broke into the doctors’ quarters in the early hours of Thursday.

The doctors are currently receiving treatment at the hospital.

Motsoaledi said that even during times of war, health professionals and health facilities are spared the violence as warring parties understand that medical practitioners are there to save lives and to protect the vulnerable.

"Even during moments of war health facilities are usually spared from attacks. Hence I am saying this acts cannot be viewed as an ordinary act of criminality, but an attack on the State. We should act with speed and ensure that perpetrators are sent to jail," said Motsoaledi.  

The national department of health said several incidents of robberies, where doctors were targeted have previously been reported at other hospitals in the province. 

In the Letaba Hospital incident, it is alleged that heavily armed men easily ran over the security guards of the facility. The terrified guards apparently ran for cover. 

"The turn of events make us believe that this was a well-organised attack, possibly by a syndicate operating in the area and targeting our health facilities," said Motsoaledi.

African News Agency (ANA)