Cape Town - The Western Cape government has launched Operation Khuseleka (Stay safe), a staff safety initiative aimed at protecting vulnerable City staff following a spate of attacks on paramedics in Cape Town.
Health workers, community members, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and government bodies held a symbolic walk on Monday at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town to show solidarity for staff safety.
The march was led by provincial Health MEC NomaFrench Mbombo.
"It is time for the whole [of] society to realise that the safety of communities is inextricably linked to the safety of health workers. Whether it is attacks against EMS workers, who often work at unsafe hours, or whether it involves some other ill-treatment, we must unite to protect our health services," Mbombo said.
Dr Beth Engelbrecht, the head of department, said: "We are very aware of the personal and safety risks to our staff and thus we wish to show our solidarity with them today; we are committed to safe hours and to make their environment as safe as possible.
"Staff safety has recently emerged in the internal staff satisfaction survey as the number one concern for health staff. The department is paying close attention to this issue."
Extensive engagement was ongoing with the SAPS, community police forums, the Department of Community Safety and various other safety organisations.
EMS teams have the option to call for assistance, or may opt to wait for a situation to be normalised before entering an unsafe area.
Ambulances have also been fitted with more tracking devices.
"We urge people to remember that we are there to help. It could be your mother, sister, son or brother in the ambulance," said EMS manager Phumzile Papu.
"Let us do our work safely. Please don't let thugs rob communities of an essential service."
On a separate note, Mbombo confirmed that the working hours of young doctors would no longer exceed a 24-hour shift, following complaints.
Legislation is currently being drawn up by the Health Professions Council of SA, but the province has decided to shorten the length of working hours ahead of its finalisation, and to fully implement that decision by January 1 2017.