Western Cape emergency workers 'in constant state of fear'

2016-09-14 06:27
File (Tammy Petersen, News24)

File (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town – Attacks on Western Cape emergency medical services (EMS) workers have come to a point where they live in a constant state of fear and their managers dread the day they are told someone has been killed on the job.

Since January no less than 40 confirmed incidents have taken place in the province. The majority are in Cape Town in areas that have significant crime rates.

Crews were most likely to be robbed, threatened with a gun, assaulted or have their ambulance stoned.

EMS staff members were set to voice their frustration over these attacks in a march in Philippi on Wednesday.

They would be joined by other emergency service workers including the police. Labour representatives, health department officials, residents, community structures and the health MEC would also be part of the march.

"When I see a call from the control room, then I fear the worst because the last thing that we want is to hear that a staff member has been killed," the health department's EMS manager Phumzile Papu told News24 in an interview on Tuesday.

"I am afraid what will happen that day."

Soft targets

He said the march was not just for the province's emergency workers but for the whole country.

"We are saying enough is enough."

Around 130 ambulances were operational at any one time. 

Papu said they had become soft targets because they were often on scene for violent incidents in crime-infested areas.

Peak periods for attacks were weekend nights.

Police escorts were compulsory for call-outs in hotspots after dark. Staff could also use their prerogative to leave an area.

But morale was low and fear was said to be the order of the day.

Papu said a number of workers were booking off sick at night, especially on weekends.

Families affected

The uncertainty was also starting to affect their families.

"Now frequently the families are checking on them."

The department had lost more than 4 470 working hours so far this year due to workers being depressed or stressed, more than for the whole of last year.

Almost all took up the offer of counselling.

Papu said the department did not have to wait to take drastic action and would do whatever it could to keep workers safe.

Read more on:    cape town  |  health  |  crime

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