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. The Times reports that Motsoaledi has expressed shock and outrage at last week’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.
The report says 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.”
Police in Limpopo are offering a reward of up to R100,000 for information that can lead to the arrest and subsequent conviction of the suspects responsible for the Letaba Hospital attack and another at the Lebowakgomo Hospital, says an IoL report.
On Thursday morning last week, at about 3.15am, about five men attacked doctors in their residential quarters at the Letaba Hospital outside Tzaneen and robbed them of an amount of cash, cellphones, TV sets, and laptops. One of the doctors was shot and wounded and another was hit with a blunt object. Both have been admitted to hospital, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said in the report.
In a similar incident, a group of about seven men broke into the doctors’ residence at the Lebowakgomo Hospital shortly after midnight on Saturday morning and robbed the doctors of money, cellphones, and laptops.
The report says in both incidents, the suspects gained access to the premises by breaking concrete bars in the fences behind the residences and then proceeded to the homes of the doctors.
Limpopo police commissioner Lt-Gen Nneke Ledwaba had already put into action the 72-hour action plan to hunt down the criminals. The police provincial task team, led by a major-general, had been hard at work searching for the suspects who attacked the doctors at Letaba Hospital. The same task team would also take over the investigation of the latest robbery at Lebowakgomo Hospital, Mojapelo said.
The attacks have impacted badly on the province, jeopardising 24-hour health care, reports Health-e News. “The healthcare system in Limpopo is under attack and crime intelligence needs to be place in all health institutions,” said Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba. “Our clinics cannot run 24 hours anymore. You come and open a clinic to run 24 hours, but there are burglaries the following day and nurses are traumatised. Then they will ask you ‘MEC must we continue saving lives while our lives are in danger?’ This is a very serious threat. Unless as a country you come and support us in making sure that we deal with this issue we are not going to have clinics running 24 hours,” said Ramathuba, explaining that staff members had regularly been declining to work after hours due to safety issues.
“The doctors are saying to me ‘enough is enough’, and they are threating to stop providing any services from 4:30pm because they don’t want to stay in an environment where they are not protected,” she said.
Ramathuba said steps would be taken to put increased security measures in place at the health facilities. “We are discussing this with the State Security Agency, and the issue is now at the level of both the Minister of Health and Minister of Police. We have done a lot as province, and we have engaged state security agency to say that we need criminal intelligence in our hospitals and clinics.”
The report says the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has called for the maximisation of security levels in the health facilities. “We call upon the MEC of Health in Limpopo to ensure that the security service providers in public health care institutions are capable of delivering maximum protection to both employees and patients at all health facilities and properties,” the organisation said. “We also urge the SAPS to ensure citizens that there will be a carefully considered plan to ensure safety and security in all facilities.”
Employees at Letaba Hospital have asked for the services of the institution’s security company to be terminated. A Sowetan report quotes Sammy Shipalane, a porter who had been working at the facility for 27 years, as saying it was pointless to have the security guards when robbers could gain easy access. “No one is safe at this hospital, even in the presence of the security guards,” said the 50-year-old man.
The report says he was among a group of employees who protested during a visit by Motsoaledi and his police counterpart Bheki Cele on Friday last week. The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in Limpopo said there was a need to insource security in all health facilities.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said that no one has been arrested in connection with the attacks on doctor.
Meanwhile, the report says, an alleged robber was gunned down during a shootout with the police while attempting to attack a clinic in Limpopo. The incident happened in Manganeng village outside Jane Furse in the Sekhukhune. Motsoaledi said a group of four men approached a security gate at the Manganeng Clinic pretending to be accompanying a patient. He said a female security guard was disarmed and that police officers who were deployed to the area had reacted swiftly and gave chase to the would-be robbers.
The minister believed the men were part of a syndicate targeting health care facilities in the province. “We are concerned about the growing attacks on our facilities. But we are continuing to work with the police to ensure we curb incidents of attacks on our facilities. And we believe we will win the fight,” said Motsoaledi.