Another paramedic attacked on duty amid calls to arm workers with weapons (GRAPHIC WARNING)

2018-12-30 14:26
Paramedic Philani Nzuza recovers in hospital after an attack in which he was stabbed. (Supplied)

Paramedic Philani Nzuza recovers in hospital after an attack in which he was stabbed. (Supplied)

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Another paramedic has been attacked while on duty, according to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

This follows calls for paramedics to carry weapons while on duty, after about 30 attacks on emergency services workers in the last six months.

A paramedic was stabbed multiple times by three men while entering the Emergency Medical Services base at Illovo on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.

KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo called the attack "barbaric" following a visit to the paramedic.

In a statement, Dhlomo said it was worrying that a health worker in uniform was attacked in this manner. The man is recovering in a Durban hospital.

"The people who attacked him must have been under the influence of something that made them not to be in touch with reality," said Dhlomo.

"A health worker operating ambulances is a critical staff member. Even during the period of our massive protests against apartheid rule, health professionals were allowed to go through to hospitals and clinics because they could be going to save the lives of our people injured by the apartheid police.

"The behaviour of these thugs is seen as a practice that hinders our professionals from performing their national duty. We hope that the SAPS can do whatever it takes to apprehend these perpetrators of social ills," said Dhlomo.


Paramedic Philani Nzuza was stabbed

Paramedic Philani Nzuza was attacked and stabbed in the chest and head. (Supplied)

According to IOL, two Cape Town paramedics were held at gunpoint while transporting a patient in a serious condition to the Melomed Hospital in Mitchells Plain. It appears as though the patient, found lying in the road, was used as bait to lure the paramedics to the scene so that they could be robbed.

Calls to arm

Early in December, the SA Emergency Personnel Union (Saepu) called on the union's 7 000 members to arm themselves over the festive season, to "treat fire with fire".

Saepu president Mpho Mpogeng told News24 that with the exception of the incidents over the weekend, there had been no other reported attacks on paramedics since that call.

Prior to the statement, there were attacks about three times a week, he said.

The Department of Health's national director for emergency services and disaster management, Raven Naidoo, was quoted by both EWN and IOL saying that arming paramedics increased the risk of violence.

He reportedly said the department had plans in place to address the issue and said all health establishments in the country were gun-free zones.

Increase in violence

Ministry of Health spokesperson Popo Maja told News24 on Sunday that guns were likely to increase violence levels.

Mpogeng said the union met with the ministry, where they were asked to retract their call. He said they would be willing to do so if there were tangible plans in place to protect healthcare workers. But while the department said it had plans in place, there had been no implementation, he said.

Mpogeng said there were "no-go zones" for ambulances in some communities because of the high crime rates, and the union wants security to be beefed up in these areas.

Maja said it was the responsibility of communities to address the problem, and said it was not the responsibility of the state and the police alone to do so.

Police escorts

"We strongly discourage any of our staff, be it paramedics or doctors to arm themselves. There is evidence that when people are armed, it poses a danger to themselves.

"The issue of attacks on paramedics is something that society has to deal with. We really appeal to the communities to uproot this criminality. It cannot be the state alone, even the police, to keep law and order. Communities know these criminals.

"Outside health facilities, safety is the responsibility of the police. But again, communities must say enough is enough. Even in war situations, emergency and health professionals are always spared. Communities are the ones who can really get rid of these people."

He said the plans Mpogeng referred to included arranging police escorts for paramedics entering situations involving gang violence.

Read more on:    durban  |  health  |  service delivery  |  crime

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