Paramedics’ ‘duty of care’ exploited by SA criminals

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Criminals are exploiting paramedics’ “duty of care” by flagging them down and then attacking and robbing them. According to a Weekend Argus report, paramedics are not allowed to pass someone in distress, and this is been used against them.

The report says Two Melomed medics were held at gunpoint and robbed in late December on AZ Berman Drive in Lentegeur. The duo was driving to the Melomed Hospital in Mitchells Plain to do an inter-hospital transfer for a code red patient when they were flagged down to attend to a man lying in the middle of the road.

“They stopped and when they approached the man who was supposedly in distress, he stood up and hit his gun against the windscreen. The man who flagged them down pulled the medic from the driver’s side of the vehicle and put a gun to his head. The duo were robbed of their cellphones, wallets and a Swiss army knife. When the paramedic was taking out the knife they thought it was a gun. Thankfully, they were not hurt but are traumatised,” said Salama Joseph, a manager at Melomed.

The report says the police did not confirm whether this was a new modus operandi being used by perpetrators.

Joseph said it had become extremely risky and sad when medics had to safeguard not only themselves but also their patients, because perpetrators had no regard for human life. “Perpetrators are robbing their community of a vital service. There might be a point that we have to say some areas are a no go because of the attacks, and who suffers? The community will, unfortunately. There seems to be no solution from safety and security to protect medics.”

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk confirmed the incident and added that the perpetrators also made off with the medics’ medical cards and an undisclosed amount of cash.

There have been proposals that neighbourhood watches and police help escort medics into red zones. However, Joseph is quoted in the report as saying this had not been working as medics often found there were not enough vehicles available at certain police stations to escort them, or they were told to first drive into the area and find the police station, and they were not escorted into the area. This also led to delayed response times from medics.

“The community then get upset at the response time or end up using their private cars. Of course, the delayed response time may also affect the patient who is waiting for EMS, as they could be a code red patient or someone who has had a stroke and the golden hour is very important,” she said.

Joseph added that Melomed medics had been attacked several times in 2017. “We had an unidentified incident (not sure if it was an accident or an attempt to rob the medics) in February 2017 when a bakkie in Khayelitsha jumped a red robot at 2am claiming they were being chased. They knocked into the side of the ambulance causing it to land on the driver’s side. The medic driving the ambulance was killed on impact and his partner was flung to the back of the vehicle.

“In March 2017, our vehicle was coming from Bridgetown after dropping staff. They stopped at a stop street and a guy smashed the passenger side window. The crew immediately drove away towards the base in Gatesville. This was about five minutes away from Melomed Gatesville. Later in 2017, we had incidents where ambulances were stoned on Prince George Drive by a group of 10 guys, and in a separate incident they were stoned on the R300 and in Mitchells Plain by a group of guys attempting to hijack them.”

The report says the police are investigating an armed robbery case.

Weekend Argus report (subscription needed)

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