Johannesburg - Paramedics have been described as “sitting ducks" following a wave of violent attacks on emergency services personnel across the country in recent weeks.
The South African Emergency Personnel’s Union (Saepu) has threatened to withdraw the services of its members, especially at night.
Union spokesperson Makuwa Kgaladi on Sunday said: “We are shocked and deeply disappointed by the escalating attacks on paramedics across the country.”
As a result of the increasing attacks on emergency personnel and safety concerns, the City of Joburg has decided to withdraw their services from Cosmo City.
At the weekend paramedics attended to an assault case in Cosmo City when the community turned against them and damaged their new vehicle.
Emergency services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the paramedics and the patient managed to leave the area unharmed. Mulaudzi said that the community wanted to torch the patient in a vigilante attack. They believed he had murdered someone in the community.
The vehicle was one of 48 new ambulances that the city put into rotation two weeks ago to replace an ageing fleet.
Mulaudzi said: “Service will remain suspended until the area is deemed safe for personnel to render this essential service in the area. It must be noted that this incident occurred in the presence of law enforcement officers.
“The ambulance services will be suspended until the safety of our EMS personnel is guaranteed in the area,” Mulaudzi said.
This is the second attack on paramedics in Joburg in a week. On Wednesday, paramedics were robbed of their belongings after they responded to an emergency in Soweto.
While attending to a patient on Wednesday, a car pulled up next to two paramedics and a group robbed them at gunpoint. On the same day, paramedics in KwaZulu-Natal were also held up at gunpoint and robbed while attending to a patient in Phoenix, Durban.
In another incident, the KZN Department of Health’s emergency medical services ambulance crew had responded to an emergency maternity case after receiving a call at about 3am, where they were ambushed and robbed.
Two weeks ago, it was reported that paramedics were responding to a call in KwaNoxolo in the Eastern Cape and they were ambushed by 12 men who robbed them at gunpoint.
Kgaladi said: “We are tired of talking about the same thing every day and here we are talking about people’s lives.
“Health MECs need to start taking the EMS unit seriously because what we are witnessing now is very unfortunate.”
“We are going to withdraw our services during the night until we are sure that our EMS workers are protected,” Kgaladi added.
The union has for several years been asking for safety plans for paramedics to be implemented.
“We are calling on the new minister of health to urgently work with his MECs and the SAPS to implement plans for the safety of our EMS workers,” Kgaladi added.