Despite being employed to save lives, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel in recent years fallen victim to criminals and gangs on the Cape Flats. As a result, residents’ access to the vital service has been compromised, with EMS unable to enter volatile areas without the assistance of law enforcement. In a bid to assess the impact that attacks has had on EMS services in the Western Cape, the Standing Committee on Community Development on Tuesday met with various stakeholders to discuss the growing concern. The meeting was hosted in the notoriously volatile area of Kalksteenfontein
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, Democratic Alliance Western Cape Spokesperson on Community Development, Lorraine Botha, explains that the while EMS staff was not present at the meeting, they were representing by the Department of Health, which outlined the impact the violence has had on the operation of EMS’.
She says that the meeting was well-attended by community members, inclusive of CPF’s, NGO’s and neighbourhood watch members, and focussed on methods to alleviate the scourge of attacks on EMS staff.
While fears do exist when venturing into areas synonymous with violence, Botha asserts that EMS staff continues to operate, even in instances where police escorts are required.
“But in terms of Kalksteenfontein, it is classified as a red zone, meaning that there were many attacks on EMS personnel. So when the call out is made for EMS personnel to go out to the area, they are escorted by police,” she elaborates.
She notes that community members have indicated that they are willing to mobilize in areas that are ridden with violence in order to ensure that EMS personnel are protected when entering these areas.
Residents further indicated the need to connect all stakeholders, including the department of health, the department of community safety and the South African Police Service (SAPS) in order to improve the working conditions of personnel.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) called on government to assist EMS personnel to conduct their duties without fear.
Hospersa went as far as requesting the Health Ministry to consider requesting the deployment of the South African National Defense Force and discussed the option of issuing ambulances firearms.
“We want to see government doing more to protect EMS members‚” said Desfontaines. “The response to this problem is too slow and many of our good proposals seem to be falling on deaf ears. We are busy strategizing on how to escalate this matter to national level‚ as it has now truly become a national problem,” Hospersa General Secretary, Noel Desfontaines.