Furious Aaron Motsoaledi ropes in Bheki Cele to catch doctors' attackers
Health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi suspects a syndicate is behind a series of criminal attacks on medical professionals and has reached out to police minister Bheki Cele to help catch those responsible.
Cele has just returned from an overseas trip, but has agreed to accompany the health minister to Limpopo on Friday, the national health department said.
Motsoaledi has expressed shock and outrage at Thursday’s attack on three doctors at Letaba Hospital in Limpopo. The doctors were shot when five heavily armed men burst into their residence at the hospital. One of the victims, a woman, was in a critical condition. The doctors are currently receiving treatment at the hospital.
In a statement, Motsoaledi denounced the attack on the health professionals.
“This barbaric attack on doctors should be condemned in the strongest terms possible. But more than that, the law-enforcement agencies should be mobilised to ensure that those behind the attacks are apprehended and brought to justice.
“We view the attack on our medical professionals as a declaration of war on the state and the citizens of the republic. We cannot treat this serious violation of the law as just another act of criminality.”
Motsoaledi said he had contacted Cele, who had just returned from a trip abroad. The two ministers would visit the hospital on Friday “to get first-hand information about what happened and what should be done to ensure swift reaction”.
The minister said that even during times of war, health professionals and health facilities were spared violence as both warring parties understood that health professionals were there to save lives and protect the vulnerable.
“Even during moments of war, health facilities are usually spared from attacks. Hence I am saying this act cannot be viewed as an ordinary act of criminality, but an attack on the state. We should act with speed and ensure that perpetrators are sent to jail,” said Motsoaledi.
Several incidents of robberies where doctors were targeted had been reported in the past in other hospitals in the province, the national health department said.
While Limpopo health officials had been working tirelessly with the police in the province to try to ensure the safety of health professionals in hospitals, the department said that “following the latest brazen attack, the matter had to be elevated to the national ministry of police, as it was becoming clearer that this is not just a common issue of criminality”.
In the latest incident at Letaba Hospital, the health department said it was alleged the gunmen easily overcame security guards at the facility. “The terrified guards apparently ran for cover.”
The minister said: “The turn of events makes us believe that this was a well-organised attack, possibly by a syndicate operating in the area and targeting our health facilities."