Highlighting again the unsafe conditions in SA‘s public hospitals, police and security guards allegedly fled while a gunshot-wound patient was being violently assaulted. Separately, a gang attack at a Gauteng clinic has caused nurses to refuse to do night duty. Last month, Free State University briefly suspended training at a Bloemfontein hospital after a rape attempt on an intern doctor.
The SA Medical Association has said it is “greatly concerned and dismayed” at the frequency of assaults on health-care practitioners at public institutions.
The South Rand Hospital incident, caught on video and shared on social media, occurred in the casualty area on Saturday. The attackers made no attempt to hide their faces.
The footage shows a man who injured lying on a bench in the casualty waiting area at the state medical facility, south of Johannesburg. Three men are seen arguing with medical personnel through a security gate. One of the men pulls the injured man from the bench and starts kicking him. The two others join in, kicking the man who is on the floor.
“Leave him alone,” a staff member shouts through the gates. Blood spots are evident on the floor as the men drag the injured man to a safety gate. The attackers then leave the hospital. “This is so wrong, where are the police? Where are the security guards?” a staff member asks. A second staff member is heard saying: “Gone, all of them. They ran away.”
Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) provincial chair Simphiwe Gada is quoted in the report as saying the incident happened in the early hours of Saturday morning. Gada said a patient went to the hospital with a gunshot wound. He was apparently being pursued by the men. “When the patient arrived at the hospital, those thugs came in and assaulted the patient right inside the casualty waiting area. The security (guards) fled and left the nurses and the doctors on their own,” Gada said. He said the medical staff were only protected “from the thugs” by a security gate.
“They (medical staff) could not assist this patient. They had to go and phone the police while the security (guards) were hiding somewhere. “What also disturbs us is that there was a patient there who was under police guard and the police that were looking after this patient were asleep while the incident took place,” he asserted.
He said in the report that the police responded only when the staff dialled the 10111 call centre.
Gada said they had since visited the hospital to support the workers.
The report says he accused hospital management of not taking the matter seriously. “The precautionary measure that should have been taken is that the patient should have been transferred to another hospital so that those people could not find him at the hospital to finish him off. Workers must work in a safe environment and when these things happen, they must be protected,” he said.
According to Gada a similar incident happened at Phola Park Clinic in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni, last week. “People were stabbing each other at the clinic and the security fled.”
The Gauteng Health Department are quoted in the report as saying the hospital’s managers were meeting to discuss the matter. Hospital spokesperson Phafudi Molapo was unable to comment.
The report says the condition of the victim was not immediately clear on Monday morning.
Denosa has withdrawn its members from night-shift duty at the Phola Park Clinic following the security breach there, reports The Times. Three men entered the 24-hour health facility carrying knives and searched for a man who had been stabbed, in an apparent attempt to finish off the murder at the clinic. The men went from room to room, damaging property in the process.
The union said it had had withdrawn its members from working night shift at the clinic until their safety was guaranteed. It said its decision was in line with a meeting in April 2017 in which security at the clinic was compromised. The union said it had warned the employer that if another security breach occurred at the facility, it would withdraw members from the facility.
According to the report, Denosa said nurses would only will only work from 7am to 7pm daily until their safety was assured.
The union said poor safety and security in health facilities would disadvantage the very same communities they served. “Denosa repeats that nurses have the right to refuse to work in a dangerous environment. The main concern is that the government responds only once an incident has occurred: a health worker must be injured or killed before the right thing is done,” Denosa Ekurhuleni secretary Lebo Khumalo is quoted in the report as saying.
Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku says the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD) will patrol the Phola Park Clinic at night to ensure the safety of patients and staff at the 24-hour health facility. Masuku said in a report in The Times that he met the Ekurhuleni health district officials and the clinic’s management team on Tuesday to be briefed on the security breach.
The report says Masuku expressed disappointment over Denosa’s decision to withdraw members from night shift duty as it would compromise service delivery. “It is regrettable that the unions have resolved to withdraw their members as a response to the safety concerns in the facilities, which will compromise the delivery of essential services,” said Masuku.
Masuku said while the department acknowledged that the safety of staff and patients remained of paramount importance, the department felt the disruption of essential services was not a workable solution. “We remain confident that the night shift staff will return to work today,” Masuku said.
However, the report quotes Denosa Ekurhuleni secretary Lebo Khumalo as saying the withdrawal would remain in effect until the union was satisfied that the safety of members had been addressed. Khumalo said patrols by the EMPD would not ensure that were safe at night as the EMPD officials would not always be available on the premises.
Khumalo added that the clinic management had promised to improve safety, including the introduction of new security personnel and fixing panic buttons at the facility. The union would assess safety at the clinic before deciding whether or not to return to night shift duty, Khumalo said.
The City of Johannesburg says there is no “shutdown” of its ambulance services to Cosmo City following an attack on paramedics in the area last week. “There is no ‘shutdown’ of the ambulance service to Cosmo City or anywhere in the city. In light of the attack on the ambulance crew at Cosmo City, we are now screening calls coming from these hot spots,” a News24 report quotes the spokesperson for the public safety department, Luyanda Longwe, as saying.
“If the call is to attend to a volatile situation or suspicious caller that cannot give us a precise location or description of the emergency, we will deploy the necessary resources to be escorted by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and/or SAPS. Each call will be assessed individually accordingly to merits, type and level of emergency.”
The report says this comes after an emergency management services (EMS) ambulance crew was attacked while on a call to Cosmo City on 28 June. “When the crew arrived at the scene and attempted to provide medical treatment to the injured person, they were confronted by a mob. The patient was allegedly injured as a result of a mob justice assault,” Longwe said.
The mob turned on the EMS crew attempting to assist the injured patient whom the community believed was responsible for someone’s death in the area. The crew was able to flee the scene unharmed, but the ambulance was damaged as a result of the incident.
The report says it was previously reported that EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said it was forced to withdraw ambulance services until further notice to the community of Cosmo City. Longwe said this was misinterpreted as a “shutdown”.
“The EMS spokesperson communicated the incident at the time on social media and other media inquiries. However, the temporary withdrawal of the ambulance service to Cosmo City was misinterpreted as a ‘shutdown’ of emergency medical rescue services to the residents. This is entirely incorrect,” Longwe clarified.
“When EMS members or emergency vehicles are attacked or damaged, it inevitably results in service delivery taking a knock. While the City will ensure that service levels are not impacted, we do expect possible delays in dispatching ambulances to Cosmo City due to the precautionary measures and the damaged ambulance having been taken for repairs,” Longwe concluded.
Panic buttons and police escorts are being rolled out to protect emergency workers in Johannesburg, after an ambulance crew and fire fighters came under attack in a spate of recent criminal acts. Michael Sun, the member of the mayoral committee for public safety, said in a report in The Times that the department has activated a contingency plan to deal with attacks on its firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Members of the Jabulani fire station were attacked in the early hours of Monday, he said.
An ambulance crew was also attacked in Cosmo City at the weekend, leading to a temporary withdrawal of the ambulance services to the area.
Sun said: “… In light of the attack on the ambulance crew at Cosmo City, we are now screening calls coming from these hotspots. If the call is to attend to a volatile situation or suspicious caller that cannot give us a precise location or description of the emergency, we will deploy the necessary resources to be escorted by the metro police and/or SAPS. Each call will be assessed individually accordingly to merits, type and level of emergency. We want to ensure both the safety of our residents and our EMS members. We will not risk the safety of our EMS members in favour of possible fake calls and volatile situations without police escort.”
Sun said while the city wanted to ensure that “service levels are not impacted, we do expect possible delays in dispatching ambulances to Cosmo City due to the precautionary measures and the damaged ambulance having gone for repairs”.