JOHANNESBURG – The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Health says it is alarmed by attacks on paramedics in the province and has appealed to the public to protect ambulance crews when they respond to call-outs.
In a statement late on Tuesday, KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo “expressed shock” at the attacks on health professionals.
The MEC was reacting to an attempted hijacking of an Emergency Medical Services crew at Slangspruit in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday night.
“It is alleged that the two-person crew had been responding to a distress phone call from a maternity patient – whom they ultimately could not find – when they were approached by four men and a woman,” said the health department in the statement issued by spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi.
Two men from the group confronted the crew on both the passenger and driver’s doors, demanding that they open up the ambulance. The group claimed that one of them had been injured and needed medical attention.
“When the crew member informed them that the EMS vehicle had been dispatched for a maternity case, one of the men allegedly jumped onto the crash bar of the vehicle and deliberately broke the windscreen.”
The driver drove off with the man hanging onto it.
“When the vehicle reached a set of traffic lights, some bystanders witnessed what was happening and pulled the man off the vehicle, subdued him before allegedly assaulting him,” the department said.
The EMS crew drove towards its base, when they came across a SAPS vehicle and summoned help.
“We are deeply concerned by the space of incidents in recent months whereby health care workers leave their workplace in their quest to bring much-needed emergency health care to our communities, but instead fall victim to crime,” said Dhlomo.
“It is an extremely worrying trend, because it affects our ability to fulfil our core Godly mandate, which is to save lives. Such attacks on health workers and government property should be condemned by all, as they could result in paramedics refusing to go to certain area.
“Even during the days that we were fighting apartheid; nurses and ambulances were never attacked. Instead they would be given safe passage and protected to attend to those shot by the enemy.”
Dhlomo urged communities to protect paramedics, healthcare professionals and all other state workers and property.
“If the public could be more alert and be eyes and ears of the police and hand over to the police any information that they might have on incidents of crime that are being planned, or those that have occurred, we can then begin to arrest this troublesome trend.”
However, MEC issued a warning against vigilantism.
“While what was done by members of the community in apprehending the suspect is to be commended, we would like to warn the public not to take the law in their own hands.”
– African News Agency (ANA)