Facing an increasing number of attacks, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff working in Cape Town’s townships have called for more policing as they were unable to work under the constant threat from criminals.
This year alone there have been 44 attacks on EMS paramedics on the Cape Flats, according to figures compiled by the Western Cape Department of Health.
July had the most attacks so far with 10 recorded while there have been four this month, according to figures shared by spokesperson Deanna Bessick.
Site B Khayelitsha has recorded the highest number of attacks since January with five so far this year, while Baden Powell Drive Makhaza has had three attacks on EMS crews.
National Education Health and Allied Workers Union regional secretary Zukisani Mabhengu said: “We have tried our best to assist emergency medical services personnel where we can. Unfortunately, it seems that there is a criminal element to these attacks that needs more than the labour union. We need law enforcement to respond to the calls for assistance from paramedics.
“They can’t do their jobs well if they have to constantly be on the lookout for attacks in communities they are sent to service,” said Mabhengu.
“We have exhausted all the fighting avenues for our safety to be prioritised,” said Mabhengu.
In a presentation to the standing committee on health exactly a year ago, areas of the Cape Metro where EMS paramedics cannot enter without a police escort, also known as Red Zones, were listed as including: Browns Farm, Philippi, Tafelsig, Manenberg, Hanover Park, Site C Khayelitsha, Beacon Valley, Hayden Park, Nyanga, Gugulethu and New Crossroads.
Following the most recent incident in which two paramedics were attacked on Tuesday morning when they responded to an emergency call in Dunoon, the Health Department has urged residents to report criminals and help flush out suspects involved in attacks on EMS personnel in communities.
“The Western Cape Government Department of Health strongly condemns yet another attack on two Emergency Medical Services (EMS) officials.
“The two EMS officials, a male and a female, were attending to a patient in Usasaza Street in Du Noon when the incident occurred,” said Bessick.
“The male EMS official was confronted by a male suspect who began threatening him with a knife and swearing at him.
“The male official immediately turned around, yelled and ran towards the passenger side of the vehicle.
“The suspect then opened the driver-side door of the vehicle and took an unknown object from the vehicle,” said Bessick.
Khayelitsha Health Forum secretary Tamara Sam said: “Constant attacks on emergency medical services in local communities is a big unfortunate challenge for not only vulnerable community members who depend on the health-care services system but also the workers who graciously come into our communities to provide us with these services.
“They are reluctant to come into our communities, and other relevant stakeholders who would want to participate in supporting community health-care services are discouraged,” said Sam.