Spike in attacks on EMS workers
Cape Town – Health officials and unions have expressed concern about the spike in attacks on Emergency Management Services (EMS) personnel.
In the latest onslaught against workers, paramedics were held at gunpoint in Ocean View at 3am yesterday.
The pair got into the ambulance after loading a patient. The driver was approached by three suspects and one of them held him at gunpoint.
When the paramedic saw the suspects were armed, he reacted swiftly and proceeded to a safe area. He then informed his colleague and the patient about what had transpired.
EMS spokesperson, Deanna Bessick, said the incident was reported to SAPS in Ocean View and the paramedics received counselling.
“The Western Cape Government Health strongly condemns this senseless attack on the EMS officials, who were busy rendering a crucial health-care service.
“It is unfortunate that they were targeted by a criminal element in the community, but we will continue to provide them with the necessary support, including counselling. The patient was taken to False Bay Hospital,” she said.
There has been an increase in EMS personnel attacks in the Western Cape. Last year, there were a total of 30 attacks on EMS staff and between January and September 18, 46 attacks were reported.
Bessick said the attacks increased drastically and it affects the most vulnerable in communities where EMS was most required.
“We must work together with communities to create a safe and supportive environment for EMS workers to provide, and members of communities to receive, emergency medical services as needed.
“Since the national lockdown was instated, we saw an increase in attacks. The impact is that service delivery to vulnerable communities is affected,” she said.
When asked what measures were in place, Bessick added: “We are continually exploring new ways to ensure that our staff are able to return home safely every day. There is an EMS staff safety plan that details our initiatives, this has not changed and the efforts are ongoing.”
Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA spokesperson, Kevin Halama, said the government needed to step up and protect front-line workers.
“Law enforcement officers must act swiftly to catch the perpetrators and they must receive the harshest possible sentence to caution off further such incidents from reoccurring. It is shocking that front-line workers who are leading the fight against this pandemic must also worry about this senseless crime when entering communities to provide emergency medical assistance,” he said.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said: “A case of pointing of a firearm has been opened for investigation by Ocean View police after a firearm was pointed at 36-year-old EMS employee. No one has been arrested yet.”