Escalating crimes against GPs, medical staff 'a national crisis'

09 May 2021 - 11:02
By suthentira govender AND Suthentira Govender
More than 30 robberies at private practices in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Free State have been reported to the SA Medical Association since mid-2020.  File photo.
Image: 123RF/SAMSONOVS More than 30 robberies at private practices in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Free State have been reported to the SA Medical Association since mid-2020. File photo.

Doctors in private practice are under siege by criminals who pose as patients and clear out their bank accounts, steal their devices and take medication including antiretrovirals and cough syrup.

In the most recent incident, former special adviser to the national health department and general practitioner Dr Esthras Tlou Moloko was attacked at his Germiston practice on the East Rand on Tuesday.

Moloko, 62, was severely beaten and believed he was going to die.

Two men entered the practice, with one posing as a patient.

“As one stood at my door, I saw him pulling out a gun. The only thing I could do was to go for him.”

Moloko tried to direct the gun away from him and at the robber.

“I thought I could squeeze the trigger but it seems the safety catch was on. All of a sudden I could feel I was getting smashed on my head and face which appeared to be with an iron rod. I was bleeding so much that the blood was flowing into my eyes.”

His attacker managed to escape Moloko's grip and both assailants left without taking anything.

“I'm back at the practice, if they return we will 'speak' once again,” said Moloko.

The SA Medical Association (Sama) this week condemned escalating crimes against doctors, saying it has received reports of more than 30 robberies at private practices in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Free State since mid-2020.

Sama vice-chair Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa said: “We believe they are thought of as having cash on the premises regardless of the speed-point machines which are more handy.”

He said in a few instances medicines were stolen.

Dr Prudence Buthelezi, secretary-general of the National Health Care Professional Association, described the situation “as a national crisis”.

“It's not only doctors who are being affected by crime, paramedics are also being targeted.

“We are getting reports of paramedics being robbed when they collect patients. A paramedic was shot dead in the Free State during a robbery about two months ago.”

Buthelezi believes the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated crimes against healthcare professionals in the past year because of unemployment and rising poverty levels.

“Recently at a clinic in Mpumalanga, we received a report of nurses being held up and ARVs being taken.

“It is also becoming common at private practices where the criminals are demanding ARVs or cough syrup which they are using as part of their drug abuse.”

Buthelezi recently shut her practice in KaNyamazane, Mpumalanga, and moved to central Nelspruit after being robbed three times.

Dr Norman Mabasa, a general practitioner in Kagiso, Krugersdorp, and a former Limpopo health MEC, was also a victim of a criminal attack at his practice.

“Doctors are completely under siege and are seen to be soft targets. The thugs have taken an informed decision to follow the money and not trouble themselves with small amounts of cash doctors may have in their practices.”

Mabasa's armed response security service could not be summoned because of load-shedding.

“One took my cards and went to withdraw the cash and bought liquor for about R6,000, while the other asked me for medical advice about a rash.

“One of the robbers took bottles of cough syrup before they escaped.”

National police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo said: “We don't categorise our crimes in terms of race, colour or occupational class.

“We encourage the SA Medical Association to contact us so that we can discuss this situation and take it forward.

“I will alert Crime Intelligence and our crime registrar to do an analysis on this.”