Spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi for the city’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) said the paramedics had just picked up a patient in Second Street in the early morning hours, and wanted to leave when two armed black men confronted them and forced them to stop.
“They took their wallets and cellphones,” said Mulaudzi. The paramedics and the patient are very traumatised, he said.
A similar incident occurred in Cosmos City, west of Johannesburg, in September, and emergency services staff remain scared to go into certain black areas.
“I can safely confirm that that all 1 500 EMS staff, including fire fighters and paramedics, are very much traumatised. It affects them. You can imagine: They must report for duty tonight and they wonder if they will be attacked,” said Mulaudzi.
“I am on my knees urging our [black] residents to protect us.” If they are not able to work safely, they might have to review where their services go, and possibly create no-go zones, Mulaudzi told News24.
In the Western Cape, paramedics no longer enter certain black areas in the City of Cape Town without a police escort as a result of continued attacks on them. Some paramedics have already suffered more than one attack.
But even the police escort has not deterred the attackers. In August, a police officer was shot and wounded while escorting an ambulance in the black township of Gugulethu. A suspected armed robber was also killed when police returned fire.
In February, Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo banned paramedics from entering certain crime areas, called “red zones” without a police escort, because of previous attacks on paramedics.
“They are not military trained, they are not security personnel, they are just medical health professionals,” Emergency Medical Services spokesperson Robert Daniels said. “Quite honestly, EMS people are suffering.”
He said he did not expect to see traumatised paramedics at work for a while, and this meant that residents who needed medical help urgently would be even more vulnerable.
In her budget speech in March, Mbombo said 95 EMS staff members were attacked while on duty during the previous financial year.
The EMS has been in extensive talks with senior government officials over the safety of its paramedics, pleading for support from the Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi. But, he warned, unless the societal ills such as crime and poverty are taken care of, the threats to paramedics would remain.
Two paramedics had a gun pulled on them while they were responding to a call in the black Nompumelelo Township‚ East London‚ in July.
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that two crew members‚ a man and a woman‚ were attacked in the township in the early hours of the morning. The pair fled the scene to escape harm. Kupelo said the call for help turned out to be a hoax.
Last Wednesday, October 4 a black assailant was sentenced to 12 years for attacking a paramedic in Khayelitsha in December.
This after a 33-year-old paramedic was shot at about 7.45pm on Saturday during an armed attack.
Despite risking their lives to save others, paramedics are in fear of an increasing trend of attacks and robberies after an on-duty paramedic was killed at the beginning of the year.
A 33-year-old paramedic was shot in March this year when armed robbers near the Odi EMS base in Mabopane approached him and three of his colleagues.
Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela said: “A shot was fired by one of the suspects and the victim was shot in the upper body.” The paramedic was taken to Netcare Akasia Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Xander Loubser, a paramedic at Best Care Ambulance, told The Citizen, a Gauteng daily, that the shooting was the third incident he heard about targeting paramedics in one week.
Loubser’s father and owner of Best Care Ambulance Kobus Bester was stabbed in the face and body last year. “Ambulance services are affiliating themselves with security companies to be escorted,” Bester said.
— Cojems Spokesperson (@RobertMulaudzi) October 10, 2017