Cape paramedics in talks with health dept as strike over safety looms

2016-08-10 21:26
(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Cape Town - Western Cape paramedics are locked in talks with the provincial health department over their working conditions following a number of violent incidents involving staff in the Cape Town area.

Trade union Hospersa general secretary Noel Desfontaines told News24 that the union was meeting with the department of health on Wednesday to work toward meeting the paramedics' demands regarding their working conditions.

Desfontaines said there was a "strong likelihood" that certain EMS personnel could strike following another violent incident over the weekend.

Paramedics attending to a patient in Browns Farm, Phillipi, were pelted with stones, and their ambulance's back window shattered.

"Their first reaction was 'something must be done immediately'," Desfontaines said after the latest incident.

"They said they will refuse going into the troubled areas. We will endeavour to speak to the employer as a matter of urgency. We are still waiting for the employer to get back to us."

Desfontaines said the paramedics want to continue working, but fear for their own safety.

"They feel bad that they can't fulfil their duties. They don't know if they're going to come back alive.

'Soft targets'

One of the paramedics told News24 that staff actually feared it was a gunshot which had shattered the window.

The paramedic said the staff members are afraid to enter certain areas, as they feel residents are targeting them for their personal belongings.

The paramedic also said it isn't necessarily gang areas where this is taking place, as residents in traditional gang communities aren't the ones targeting EMS staff specifically.

In July, four paramedics were attacked and robbed in Blackheath, Cape Town, while attending to a patient. A female paramedic had been stabbed with a bottle in that incident, News24 reported.

In May, four men robbed two paramedics of their medical supplies after they had responded to a call in Nyanga, News24 reported.

Hospersa provincial secretary Martinique Marinus said the union could not come to an agreement with department on Wednesday, but was hopeful an agreement could be reached by Thursday afternoon.

Safety 'non-negotiable'

Western Cape EMS spokesperson Marika Champion said the department considers its staff's safety as "non-negotiable".

"The Western Cape government health cares about the safety of staff and patients and we are constantly looking for ways to minimise risk to them. To this end, we are engaging all our stakeholders, which include the unions, to find ways to preserve the safety of staff."

In an unrelated incident, two Cape Town Metro Police officers were robbed of their firearms in Mandela Park, Harare, on Tuesday.

A suspect was arrested shortly after the getaway vehicle was spotted by an SAPS member, Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said.

Three other suspects are still on the run. The robbery is being investigated.

Read more on:    cape town  |  health

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