Concerns have been raised after a spate in attacks against emergency service personnel in the Western Cape.
A symposium at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology last week heard that there have been 56 attacks on EMS workers in this year alone.
Two paramedics responding to a call in Seawinds were over the weekend the latest victims in a whirlpool of attacks on emergency workers, bringing the number of attacks to 58.
Hospersa’s (Hospital and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa) public relation officer Kevin Halama said EMS workers are at the mercy of the criminals prying on them.
“In red-zones in the Western Cape, they have to be escorted by police but being escorted by police removes the element of it being an emergency service because the patient has to wait much longer to get the service,” said Halama.
Halama said they recently had a meeting with Government and the Western Cape where the issue of safety of members was raised.
“The buck is continuously being passed from one department to the next. We have been told that it is not a health issue but a social one and must therefore be dealt with by all stakeholders involved,” Halama said.
Halama went on to say that the Department of Health is dragging its feet.
“They have the resources and the power to address the departments to ensure that the safety of our members is prioritized.”
Halama added that they have called upon the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to be deployed to ensure stability especially in the time leading up to the festive season where the number of 58 is expected to increase.
Acting director for EMS Western Cape Stuart Taylor said contrary to what Halama said, they were not “dragging their feet.”
“In the whole of 2018, our time has been consumed with staff safety issues. It is of a higher priority than service delivery despite our initiatives put in place to protect our staff having a direct impact on service delivery,” said Taylor.
Taylor said most of the attacks occurred in areas where residents were most deprived.
“It’s a heavy burden on management because as soon as we declare a red-zone in the interest of our staff, we are fully aware of the negative impact on service delivery,” Taylor said.
Taylor stresses that responses aren’t immediate in red-zone areas as Law Enforcement have their own work separate to escorting EMS and this helps delay the response time.
Halama added that EMS workers feel unsafe and neglected.
“They feel as if they are the forgotten sons and daughters of the health care service,” Halama said.
The South African Emergency Personnel Union (Saepu) earlier urged their members to carry legal or licensed firearms to protect themselves from criminality.
Zaahidah Meyer / VOC