EMS attacks: Paramedics appeal to communities for support
In commemoration of National Emergency Medical Services Day (17 October), communities are presented with a felicitous opportunity to share special thanks and gratitude to all EMS officials who have been and continue to serve on the frontline and behind the scenes to ensure that individuals are provided with pristine emergency care. As World Trauma Day was also commemorated, it is essential to highlight the role that EMS officials play when saving a life during the most crucial moments.
As first responders, EMS officials are usually first to arrive on the scene to face challenging and draining situations. Those factors coupled with the danger that EMS paramedics face when responding to incidents in Red Zone areas have placed an added challenge to the list for EMS paramedics. This year, there had been 61 attacks on EMS officials to date, and members of the community are encouraged to report these incidents to the law enforcement authorities without delay.
Priscilla Damon (44 years old), an EMS Basic Life Support official who has been employed by the provincial Department of Health for seven years, is passionate about her role and is motivated by the help that she is able to offer community members who are in dire need of emergency assistance. However, the traumatic experience which she’s recently faced and the ongoing concern for her life has placed an unnecessary, daily fear on her as an EMS official. She is appealing to communities in the Western Cape to look out for EMS paramedics and help them so that they may continue to assist them with their emergency medical needs. “I would like individuals to help us and look out for us.
During September 2021, while on my way to attend to a call which involved a seven-month-old baby in Mfuleni, individuals were protesting in the road while I was driving with my partner Graywon Human (36 years old), who sat next to me. The protestors were burning tyres and boycotting, I couldn’t see clearly as it was at night and there was a lot of chaotic movement. I was afraid and had to think quickly. As I tried to turn the vehicle around, the protestors stoned the ambulance. The entire windscreen was damaged. Fortunately, my partner and I were able to get out of that tight, life-threatening situation,” says Ms Damon.
Not only are EMS officials faced with daily safety concerns, but their families and friends are also forced to deal with the daily concern for the lives of their loved ones who are serving Western Cape communities, whole-heartedly. The thought that a husband, sister, mother, or son, is out in communities doing their jobs as paramedics, with the risks looming in the air, is nerve wrecking for family members.
Victor Labuschagne (47 years old), has been working in the EMS sphere for the past thirty years, ten years as an Intermediate Life Support official for Western Cape Government Health’s EMS, believes that there are many rewards, although the disadvantage of attacks on paramedics has become a challenge. “I believe that being able to serve individuals in this manner is a calling and being able to make a diffidence in at least one person’s life every day is exhilarating.
Victor was shot whilst fulfilling his duty as a paramedic in Mitchells Plain on 8 December 2020. “I was a victim of a shooting last year. A person shot in the direction of the ambulance and I was hit. Fortunately, I survived. It’s a hard road to walk, there is so much trauma that has come with it as you don’t expect to be shot. It has been a wake-up call and I have been dealing with the traumatic experience one day at a time. Although it has been difficult, it will not prevent me from going out into communities and making a difference,” Victor recalls.
EMS paramedics are passionate about serving communities and making a difference. This time around communities are urged to do the same, make a difference by coming together to mitigate the unnecessary wrong which is constantly being done to paramedics whose mandates are to help, serve and save lives.
Principal Communications Officer: Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
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