‘Paramedics’ lives at risk’

2016-04-20 11:56
Hijackers stabbed a paramedic in his hand while he and his partner were attending to a medical emergency in Sinathing in the early hours of Monday morning.

Hijackers stabbed a paramedic in his hand while he and his partner were attending to a medical emergency in Sinathing in the early hours of Monday morning. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - Paramedics have stopped responding to medical cases in Sinathing, near Edendale, after one of their colleagues was stabbed while hijackers tried to steal an ambulance on Monday morning.

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are now calling for the Health ­Department and police to intervene ­before they enter Sinathing again.

The call comes after two paramedics, Bongani Gasa and Claudia Ndlovu, were attacked by hijackers just after midnight on Monday.

According to National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union ­(Nehawu) spokesperson Mazwi ­Ngubane, two men smashed the ­ambulance’s windows with a brick and began assaulting the paramedics.

“They were responding to a ­respiratory distress case in the Sinathing area and they stopped the ambulance near the patient’s house. That is when the incident happened,” he said.

Ngubane said the men assaulted the paramedics and stole the keys to the ­ambulance, the petrol card and their ­cellphones.

“The female paramedic [Ndlovu] managed to run away and hide in the bushes, but Gasa was stabbed in the hand and assaulted all over his body,” he said.

The hijackers did not get away with the ambulance. However, Ngubane said the paramedics were traumatised following the incident and have been placed on leave.

Nehawu yesterday announced its ­decision to suspend all operations of ­ambulances in Sinathing and ­surrounding areas.

“No ambulance will be dispatched to Sinathing, regardless of the nature of the call, until the Department of Health and SAPS resolve this matter. We cannot ­allow our members to put their lives in jeopardy,” said Ngubane.

He said Nehawu met with the ­Department of Health on Monday, shortly after the incident, where it was suggested that paramedics enter the area under police supervision.

However, Nehawu refused to agree to the suggestion, saying it had been tried and tested, and had failed.

“When our paramedics were ­attacked in the France township two years ago, we tried thereafter to go with a police escort to such areas. But the police did not have enough manpower to drop their work and escort our ambulances into the areas, so that plan did not work out,” said Ngubane.

He said the department and the police needed to come up with a ­better plan to go to such areas and ensure the safety of paramedics.

He said the department should hold more informative rallies in the area and educate people to keep paramedics safe and understand the nature of their work.

“These workers are parents who leave the comfort of their homes with an intention to serve the ­people. We decided that no ­ambulance will be dispatched to ­Sinathing until a better strategy is formed,” said Ngubane.

He also urged community members to respect and protect emergency ­services workers.

“They must also understand that the shortage of resources is not employees’ fault. We also hope the police will do their best to find the culprits,” he said.

Responding to questions on the ­matter, Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said he was disgusted by such incidents. He appealed to all ­communities to report and expose those who commit such “heinous crimes”.

“Attacking paramedics is barbaric, compromises the safety of our ­emergency workers and cripples the ­essential service they render. It must just stop,” he said.

He did not explain how Sinathing ­residents needing emergency medical care would be attended to.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  attack

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