‘Worthless’ tablets raided‘

2015-07-21 06:00

A new technology rolled out in ambulances across the city is making emergency medics a target for crime.

This as three sources in the industry, who do not want to be identified as they are not contractually permitted to speak to the media, claim that robberies and attacks have spiked over the last few months, especially in areas such as Mitchell’s Plain, Manenberg, Hanover Park and Khayelitsha.

They believe the spike coincides with the installation of tablet devices in ambulances, which link medics to the call centre and provide directions to the emergency.

Some medics who have been held up have even been asked to hand over the “tablets”, sources say.

Useless outside ambulances

The tablets, according to a source with industry knowledge, have been installed in a way that makes them “impossible to remove” from the ambulances.

The tablets are also locked and will only work on the health department’s system, and are useless for any other user.

The installation of the devices, referred to as MDTs, cost about R300m, the source says.

Medics have reportedly raised their concerns with management, but have received no reaction.

They are now calling for immediate action to be taken, to inform the community that the devices are not removable and are not useable outside the ambulance.

Sources say the device, which is mounted above the dashboard, is clearly visible at night.

The system also updates continuously, and can be heard beeping from outside the ambulance.

They say in some areas, medics even choose to use ambulances in which the devices have not yet been installed or switch it off.

They say no education has taken place in communties to inform the general public of the function of the MDT devices.

Added pressure

The increase in attacks has left medics fearful, a source confirms, with many already expected to attend to patients in areas they feel are unsafe or where gang violence is prevalent.

“We already have the pressure of having to respond to as many calls as possible. It’s now becoming just a job and we are losing our passion,” he says.

The department of health refused to confirm the existence of the MDT devices, saying to do so could make ambulances more of a target.

They declined to comment further.

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