Paramedics threaten to withdraw night services after attacks

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Attacks on paramedics could to lead to a health crisis, with the SA Emergency Personnel Union (Saepu) threatening to withdraw the services of its members at night. The Star reports that the union, which represents about 7,000 Emergency Management Services (EMS) workers, has written to Gauteng MEC for Health Gwen Ramokgopa requesting a meeting to discuss the possible withdrawal of paramedics from night shifts.

Saepu president Mpho Mpogeng said: “We cannot continue as if it is business as usual when it is not. Our members are on call every day but they are not protected. We cannot allow these attacks to continue. We will withdraw our members from working night shift if the matter is not speedily addressed.” The union also wanted to discuss paramedics being robbed when dispatched to assist people in distress. “Accidents and house calls during the night must be stopped.”

The report says Gauteng Health Department spokesperson Lesemang Matuka did not respond to questions.

Mpogeng said that in the latest incident, last week, two paramedics at the Odi EMS base in Mabopane, Tshwane, were robbed of their belongings at gunpoint by a group of three men, one of whom had called the emergency line for an ambulance. The staffers, a female aged 42 and a male in his 30s, were dispatched to Mabopane but found no one when they arrived in the area on Thursday night. They then called the caller with the hope of getting better directions to where he was, which were given to them.

“At the scene, they found three armed males. This is when they discovered that it was a false call. The female crew member managed to run away but unfortunately the male crew member was left there and they took his cellphone, wedding ring, wallet and radio,” Mpogeng said, adding that the paramedics were not injured. He said it was clear that the caller had planned the robbery.

“Saepu is concerned that these robberies are becoming a nationwide phenomenon. We strongly condemn such acts, which not only traumatise the workers but also risk putting the lives of many people at risk.

“(The union demands that) ambulances should be escorted when attending calls. And law enforcers should arrest criminals because since these incidents took place, no one has been arrested, and members of the community need to work with law enforcement to expose these thugs,” Mpogeng said.

The report says in March, a 33-year-old paramedic was shot and killed near the Odi EMS base. In July last year, personnel were assaulted and a fire engine shot at in the Dukathole informal settlement, Germiston. In October, two paramedics were robbed at gunpoint in Alexandra, Johannesburg. The robbers took their wallets and phones. A few days later, two attacks were reported in Ekurhuleni.

In one of the incidents, paramedics were robbed and assaulted in the Somalia informal settlement, Vosloorus. In the other incident, an ambulance was stoned in Palm Ridge.

The report says in November, an eight-year old boy died in an ambulance that was transporting him to hospital after it was attacked on the N2 near Borcherds Quarry in the Western Cape.

The Star report (subscription needed)

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