ER24 medic recovering after father of patient 'snaps', punches him in the face

ER24 emergency vehicles park at a hospital. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
ER24 emergency vehicles park at a hospital. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

An ER24 medic is recovering after he was assaulted while transporting a man from an accident scene in Potchefstroom.

ER24 was called to the scene in Paul Street at 19:25 on Monday, to attend to a man who was trapped after his bakkie crashed through a fence and into a residence.

According to ER24, the man's father hit the medic in the face while en route to the hospital.

"Using the situational and self-awareness training received from ER24, the medic was able to defend himself from further attacks by managing to pull the vehicle over safely and remove himself from the situation," said ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring.

The assailant then got out of the ambulance and into a bakkie that had been following behind.

READ: Ambulance attacks: JMPD to escort staff responding to emergency calls

ER24 offered trauma counselling to the medic and put him on light duty to help him cope.

"He's doing well, and he was checked by the doctor. The medic is still in good spirits," Meiring told News24.

But the events that led to the violence is a mystery.

"Even my medic says he doesn't know what happened. He was driving and the father just snapped," Meiring said, adding that the man had since been arrested.

The issue of attacks on emergency responders has come under the spotlight again recently, following a number of incidents.

Problematic areas

News24 reported on Wednesday that Johannesburg Metro Police Department officers would now escort emergency vehicles to so-called problematic areas.

ER24 also requests escorts when an area has been identified as dangerous.

"We do have areas where we request the assistance of the local authorities, but we can't utilise it for every call – it's just not feasible. We have to be very careful and we can't say: 'No we can't go to this call'," said Meiring.

According to EMSWorld, EMS workers should try to de-escalate potentially violent encounters and try "escaping them once they escalate".

Feeling better

A 2005 US National EMS Management Association publication found that 52% of responders reported that a patient had assaulted them, and many EMS workers hid their injuries from employers.

In SA, the South African Emergency Personnel's Union (SAEPU) called on Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to act on attacks on paramedics.

"Metro's head of EMS' statement to say at this point they think they should get bulletproof vests for their crews is very worrying. We don't have time for thinkers; they must be sure.

"There's no time for time-wasters who want to be media populists. Even if you can ask them to show you a written plan or a procurement process, they won't," said SAEPU, after 12 men robbed EMS staff at gunpoint in KwaNoxolo in the Eastern Cape.

ER24 said that the medic who was attacked is feeling better and declined light duty.

"He's happy to go back to his normal shift," said Meiring.

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