Gunmen open fire on ambulance in Eshowe

2015-04-01 00:00

FOUR paramedics narrowly escaped with their lives when they were placed in the firing line yesterday after their ambulances were shot at and set alight.

In two separate incidents, emergency services staff who were called out to areas around Eshowe during the early hours of yesterday morning came under fire by gunmen.

The turmoil is believed to be as a result of building tensions by striking Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff for wage increases.

In the first incident at around 1 am, an ambulance was dispatched to Vuma Gcininhliziyo School in Eshowe to attend to an infant who was reported to be convulsing.

The ambulance was confronted by armed men and both crew and the patient managed to get to safety while the men set the ambulance alight.

According to police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane, police officers patrolling the area came to their rescue.

In the second incident, an ambulance was dispatched just before 2 am in Matshamhlophe to attend to a maternity case.

Ten minutes later, the ambulance crew contacted the call centre from a compound, with another person’s cellphone, to report that they had been stopped by two armed men who fired shots at the tyres. The paramedics got out of the ambulance and ran for safety.

While hiding in the bushes, they saw the men setting the ambulance alight.

When the men left they called the Mbongolwane hospital for assistance.

In both incidents, the crews of paramedics were made up of one man and one woman.

“The reason for the attacks on the ambulances are not known. There is a belief of a brewing strike from the EMS personnel with regard to pay increases,” Zwane said.

“It is therefore not clear if it is EMS staff or the community who are attacking the ambulances. Eshowe and Mbongolwane SAPS members have been deployed in the areas to monitor any activity. No arrests have been made so far.”

In a statement issued by the Department of Health, the department “strongly” warned their staff that if these actions had anything to do with the threatened illegal strike, drastic action would be taken.

“This illegal action is not supported by any of the labour unions that are recognised by the department.

“Furthermore, the department would like to reiterate that services provided by Emergency Medical Services are prescribed as an essential service,” said department spokesperson Desmond Motha.

“Therefore, EMS personnel are not allowed to participate in strike action or demonstration protests during their working hours. If they do participate, it will constitute an act of misconduct and they will be subjected to disciplinary action.”

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

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