Paramedics unimpressed with safety initiative

2012-08-21 15:16

A much-vaunted initiative to have neighbourhood watch members accompany paramedics attending incidents in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, left paramedics unimpressed at its launch today.

Following a recent knife attack on a paramedic in Khayelitsha the provincial departments of health and community safety announced the launch of the neighbourhood watch initiative at the Khayelitsha District Hospital.

But rather than being pleasantly surprised that a neighbourhood watch member would accompany them when attending to victims and patients in township areas, paramedics interviewed believed it was a waste of time and money.

While Community Safety MEC Dan Plato and Health MEC Theuns Botha made their surprise announcement, paramedic Sithembile Philiso said the idea wouldn’t work.

“First we were not informed about this initiative, we were only told to be here ... This is not going to work. The neighbourhood watchers do not have transport, we’re dealing with people having guns and other weapons, what is the neighbourhood watch going to do?” said Philiso

Said another paramedic, who withheld her name: “We do not know how this is going to work. We get the information (to attend to an incident) over the radio, where will a neighbourhood watch be at that time?

“Does this mean we have to wait for a neighbourhood watch before going to the scene?”

But the 20 paramedics, who stood in a group and nodded in agreement with what was said, expressed concern over their safety.

“Sometimes we get calls about incidents and when we get to the scene people are waiting to rob us. What is the neighbourhood watch going to do then?”

Plato announced to the media today that ten selected neighbourhood watch members would begin escorting paramedics from this Friday.

Plato said the neighbourhood watch members would be trained to fulfil their protective role.

The selected neighbourhood watch members would be stationed at the Khayelitsha District Hospital’s dispatch centre when on duty.

Botha expressed his gratitude for the assistance provided by Plato’s department.

“Ideally we would like our staff protected all over Cape Town,” said Botha.

With that aim in mind another pilot project in which the emergency service unit was investigating the use of defence tools such as shock pistols and pepper spray was being considered, he said.

Neighbourhood watch member Zinyusile Walaza said they needed more training before feeling confident enough to offer protection to the paramedics, but was looking forward to being of assistance.

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