Military hospital a crime hotspot: docs

2010-07-22 10:10

The country’s 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria and the area surrounding the base’s staff housing have become a crime hotspot, and authorities are doing nothing about it, according to three women doctors working and living there.

For the past two years, doctors have had to put up with their cars being stolen and their flats being broken into.

One woman said: “I wouldn’t walk around outside the hospital alone. Every time I go to work I feel like I’m taking a risk.”

The hospital is one of three military hospitals in South Africa.

Visiting VIPs, United Nations staff and defence force members were treated there.

The facility had been busy with a floor-by-floor renovation for the past two years.

As a result security at the hospital was not up to standard because there was no money, she said.

“I went to see the head of protection and security and he advised me to have a panic alarm inserted [in the flat] and to get Chubb [security company] to watch the place because they could not do much at the moment.

“The security head said the doctors’ flats were currently the most dangerous place to stay at the hospital and he cannot do much to change that until the renovation has finished.”

The doctor had her car stolen from outside her flat on the military base, had an attempted break-in at her flat and had been the victim of a smash-and-grab just outside the base.

Her car was stolen during visiting hours, “when the guards should have been on their best lookout”.

That afternoon she had seen a “suspicious looking” young man in a green overall, worn by all maintenance staff at the hospital, sitting watching cars and people’s movements.

She later learnt the hospital did not have any young men on its maintenance staff, as all of them were elderly men.

A month later there was once again a young man wearing a cleaner’s jacket “pretending” to sweep the upper-level parking at 10.30pm on a Sunday.

“In the year and a half that I have lived here no one has ever swept the parking lot, and furthermore all the cleaning staff are female.”

The next day there was an attempted break-in at her flat.

“The domestic worker says that she was busy cleaning inside the flat, luckily with the door locked, when she heard someone fiddling with the door and trying to force it open.”

The woman refused to open the door, the man got upset and tried to force it open again. She shouted at him and he left.

The incident was reported to the head of protection and security and military police, but nothing could be done as the domestic worker was unable to give a description of the man.

Another doctor had valuables stolen out of an open window on her ground floor flat.

“They had used a broom to pull the bed towards the window, as I had handbags and clothes on the bed. They also tried to get some jewellery but couldn’t reach it.

“I did complain to the head of security and safety, but did not make too much of an effort because I knew nothing would be done.”

She said “the patients and staff security was obviously not as important as the appearance of the hospital”.

The base had tried to introduce access controls, such as getting people to sign in and out and searching car boots, but the office of the general officer commanding (GOC) had complained it was causing a traffic back-up, she said.

“There is no security, I don’t know how many times I’ve arrived late at the hospital and the booms are open and the guards are fast asleep.

“The GOC says he knows his guards are not doing what they are supposed to, but if it is not reported, or he doesn’t catch them red-handed then he cannot do anything.”

Attempts to get comment from the South African National Defence Force for the past two weeks were unsuccessful.

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