The Khayelitsha Health Forum has launched an initiative to protect Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Personnel, following reports of an increase in attacks by criminals.
It comes on the foot of an attack in which two paramedics were robbed at gunpoint in Harare two weeks ago, while responding to an emergency call near the Saint John’s Church. The criminals stole cellphones, wallets, wedding rings, radios and an undisclosed amount of cash.
The incident is among several similar incidents reported by EMS crew members who suffer extensive trauma.
A Medical Services Safety Symposium was held at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology last November, after a report revealed a total of 53 attacks on EMS crew reported in Western Cape last year alone. Government and civil society called for greater collaboration to prevent further attacks.
However, just two weeks after the summit, two paramedics were attacked in Seawinds. The Western Cape Health Department reported that one of them was punched in the face, while the other was robbed of a cellphone.
Deputy Health Minister Mathume Phaahla said at the symposium that paramedics will undergo safety training.
The Khayelitsha Health Forum, among other organisations, said paramedics should not have to fear for their safety when on duty.
Following a summit over the weekend, the forum said a decision was made by community members and other stakeholders, to provide protection to EMS personnel responding to the area. Chairperson of the Khayelitsha health forum Mzanywa Ndibongo said the community made a collective decision.
“We will be having dialogue in all corners of Khayelitsha involving government people, police, neighborhood watch and policing forums. We’ve taken a decision to assist in escorting the ambulances and not waiting on police because there are few resources (at the police station).”
He added that they will convene a bigger meeting with all relevant stakeholders to discuss the way forward, particularly in Harare, Makhaya and Cite C which have been identified as Red Zones.
Ndibongo explained that by mobilizing the community members, it will be easier to identify who the criminals are and eradicate the danger they pose. However, he highlighted that the criminals will likely change their modus operandi.
“When we chase them (criminals) out of Khayelitsha, they will be doing the same thing in other areas. So we will start communicating with Kilpfontein, Manenberg, Gugulethu, Belhar and other areas.”
He noted that an invitation will be extended to surrounding areas to attend the mass meeting in order to find a lasting solution to the problem.
The meeting is expected to take place next Tuesday.