Cape Town - Emergency workers have been targeted by criminals three times in Mitchells Plain in a fortnight, twice being held at gunpoint and in one case having a cardiac monitor stolen from an ambulance.
The three cases are among 10 reported this year of staff falling victims to crime while on duty and the provincial health department is “very concerned” about the safety of its workers.
On Monday, Western Cape Health Department Emergency Medical Services (EMS) spokeswoman Angelique Jordaan said in Mitchells Plain alone three of the 10 incidents had occurred and involved workers responding to calls for their help.
She said the incidents occurred as follows:
* June 13 – An EMS team was held at gunpoint on the border of Eastridge and Tafelsig. Nothing was stolen from them.
* June 18 – A cardiac monitor was stolen from an ambulance while staff were tending to a patient on the border of Crossroads and Eastridge. Police spokesman Andre Traut said four suspects were arrested for stealing the monitor, worth R35 000.
* June 26 – An EMS team was held at gunpoint and robbed of all their belongings on AZ Berman Drive.
Jordaan said hot spots had been identified and included Khayelitsha Site B and areas in the northern and southern suburbs where gang violence and activities were prevalent.
“Unfortunately certain incidents occur randomly and it is a case of the ambulance crew being in the wrong place at the wrong time with no forewarning,” she said.
Jordaan said staff had been informed that their personal safety was a primary concern and if they felt unsafe, they could leave an area.
“As a department we are very concerned and the vigilance and alertness of the crews are the only mechanisms currently in place for their own protection.
“The nature of their work is dangerous and the thought of them being attacked by the very people they serve is frightening and demoralising. We can only appeal to the communities out there to protect and respect our staff.”
On the Facebook forum, Traffic fines, cameras & updates in Western Cape, a paramedic wrote that EMS crews were “being robbed and gunpointed every single week… 3 incidents happened in a short space of time just in the Mitchells Plain area. In the last incident which happened on Wednesday night crew was left so badly traumatised, cause they were gunpointed and robbed of their personal possessions.
“This Is NOT ON… We don’t even know if we will return safely to our loved ones,” (sic) she said.
Another paramedic said incidents had been happening for years. “Unfortunately it also happens in ‘safe’ areas. A colleague had a gun to his head when going to a patient’s house in a ‘safe area’, another was called to ‘a staged call’ only to be assaulted, there was in fact no patient there, they merely phoned for an ambulance and upon arrival were robbed at gun point and pistol-whipped. I’ve been assaulted as well, was on crutches for almost 1 month...
Traut said the theft of the cardiac monitor was regarded as an isolated incident.