Attacks on paramedics 'now at crisis level'

05 August 2016 - 09:32 By NASHIRA DAVIDS

Attacks on paramedics in metros such as Cape Town and Johannesburg have come under the spotlight again. The situation has got so bad that Emergency Management Services' personnel have had to abandon patients, said one Cape Town paramedic who did not want to be identified.This week paramedics and union representatives met officials from the Western Cape health department to find a solution."Attacks have reached crisis level; we cannot wait for someone to be killed," said the paramedic.Last month six paramedics were robbed at gunpoint in Jeppestown, Johannesburg.Spokesman for Johannesburg EMS Robert Mulaudzi said paramedics are now accompanied on calls by the police."[The attacks] create fear and panic among our people," said Mulaudzi.He said the use of the police to protect paramedics had the desired effect - no attacks.Trade union Hospersa yesterday called for urgent action in Cape Town. Its Western Cape secretary, Marthenique Marinus, said members were "alarmed at the violence they face". Thugs rob‚ stab paramedics in Happy ValleyParamedics were threatened with a knife‚ stripped of their personal belongings and one of them stabbed with a broken bottle by robbers as they loaded a patient into an ambulance in Cape Town.On Wednesday night two union members were held at gunpoint in Philippi. All their belongings and equipment were stolen.The union reported that a police escort "fled when gangsters opened fire, leaving the ambulance crew behind to face the rain of bullets alone".Hospersa said ambulances were being broken into while parked at the EMS base ."Our members are feeling hopeless and frustrated," said Hospersa general secretary Noel Desfontaines. "Some suggested downing tools until the employer came up with something to protect their lives."Mark van der Heever, deputy director for communications at the Western Cape health department, said the department was talking to those at risk."The department has made several efforts and tried various approaches to enable a safe working environment. This includes police escorts in high-risk areas," said Van der Heever.He said that in the past 12 months paramedics had responded to 713144 calls and had reported about 70 criminal cases, including robbery, theft, damage to property, assault and hijacking."The department is aware that these incidents are bad for staff morale."..

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