'Traumatised' emergency staff targeted by violent criminals in Western Cape

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EMS crew members responded to 5 827 incidents, of which 31% were of a life-threatening nature.
EMS crew members responded to 5 827 incidents, of which 31% were of a life-threatening nature.
Duncan Alfreds, News24
  • Emergency medical teams are being targeted by violent criminals. 
  • The health department said this happened on 10 occasions for the year. 
  • Over the past weekend, teams were targeted in Parow, Langa and Pinelands.

The Western Cape's health and wellness department said it was concerned that violent criminals had targeted its emergency medical services (EMS) teams. 

The department said criminals had targeted staff on 10 occasions for the year. 

Although most attacks did not result in serious physical injuries, essential healthcare services to the most vulnerable were often disrupted, and the staff had been traumatised.

In a statement on Monday, the department said that, over the past weekend, EMS teams were targeted in Parow, Langa and Pinelands. 

"If residents have any information related to this weekend's three incidents, they are encouraged to please report it to the SAPS. Assaults on our EMS personnel and their impacts on services to our communities will not be tolerated. These assaults often leave our EMS personnel traumatised and fearing for their lives while fulfilling their duties," the department said. 

On Saturday, an ambulance crew escaped a robbery at gunpoint as they were travelling down Francie van Zijl Drive, towards Elsies River.

On Sunday, a crew member in Langa was slapped in the face by a patient, who refused assistance - and, in a separate incident, a cable theft occurred at the EMS base in Pinelands.

While the unpredictable work environment exposes EMS personnel to many risks, violence should not be one of them.

"Staff safety is a high priority for the department, and we will continue to provide the necessary employee assistance programme interventions to the affected personnel and implement essential measures to help ensure that EMS personnel are kept safe.

"These include staff safety, management strategies, safety stakeholder engagements, and community initiatives," it said.

The department added that, at the past weekend, EMS crew members responded to 5 827 incidents, of which 31% were of a life-threatening nature.

Most patients were transported to the Tygerberg, Worcester and Groote Schuur Hospitals.

Most incidents involved chest pains (915), weapon assaults (817), respiratory complaints (530), physical assaults (376) and obstetric complaints (323). 

On the province's roads, EMS responded to 198 incidents, which left several occupants injured.

With an escort from the police, EMS crews also attended to various incidents in the permanent Red Zone neighbourhoods, such as Beacon Valley (50), Tafelsig (36), Hanover Park (14) and Chicago (5).

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