Call to end attacks on emergency medical services personnel
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Pretoria - Words with no action behind them will not put an end to the senseless attacks and killings of emergency medical services personnel, their union has said.
Its leaders were responding to a call by MEC for Health Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi for communities to help put an end to continued attacks on emergency services workers responding to calls.
Mokgethi said unless communities worked together with law enforcement agencies to put an end to the attacks on personnel and the vandalism of their equipment, many people needing emergency medical care might find themselves without assistance as workers would be reluctant to respond to calls for help.
She stressed that an attack on emergency services should be seen as an attack on the rest of society.
Mokgethi's sentiment followed the attack of two crew members who were shot at on Friday night while responding to a gunshot incident at the Dukathole informal settlement in Germiston in Ekurhuleni.
One of the crew members who was shot was rushed to the hospital, and the resident who the personnel were rushing to assist died on the way to the hospital.
However, Mpho Mpogeng, president of the South African Emergency Personnel Union, said the statements were not sufficient to stem the wave of attacks on emergency personnel.
Mpogeng said words but no action coming from people with the powers to protect workers were a particularly “bitter pill” to swallow.
He said they were disappointed that even though they had repeatedly made the call for the protection of workers and sent through proposals, nothing had been done to date.
Mpogeng said as a union they would have hoped that government departments instituted outreach campaigns in areas prone to attacks so as to rally behind workers.
"We've suggested many things, from procuring bulletproof vests to installing trackers and a dashboard camera, but when we go back to check the progress, we find that nothing has been done.
“There is a budget for the safety of the workers, but nothing is forthcoming and we just don't know what more needs to happen."
Mpogeng said even plans implemented by the department were ineffective, as workers were being intimidated by their managers not to use them.
Tshwane Emergency Services spokesperson Charles Mabaso said thankfully the capital city had been spared recent attacks by criminals, with the last incident reported between two and three years ago.
Mabaso said, however, that given the high level of concern for their workers’ safety, they had ensured that they were trained to evaluate each situation when responding to calls.
Even in instances where workers felt unsafe, Mabaso said they often referred the matter to law enforcement to assist them, which had always heeded their call.
He said although there had been no recent attacks in Tshwane, they were monitoring all areas for any hot spots.
So far he said there were no identified hot spots in Tshwane.