Department condemns senseless assaults on EMS crews
The Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness is deeply concerned that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) teams have been targeted by violent criminals on 10 occasions this year already. Although most attacks did not result in serious physical injuries, essential healthcare services to the most vulnerable have often been disrupted and the staff have been traumatised. Cases have been reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) for investigation.
Over this last 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:
- on Saturday (4 March), an ambulance crew escaped a robbery at gunpoint as they were travelling down Francie van Zijl Drive towards Elsies River;
- on Sunday (5 March), a crew member was slapped in the face by a patient who refused assistance in Langa; and
- on Sunday (5 March), 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.
In providing medical care and saving lives this weekend, the EMS responded to 5 827 incidents of which 31% were of a life-threatening nature. Most patients were transported to the Tygerberg, Worcester and George Schuur Hospitals. Most incidents involved chest pains (915), weapon assaults (817), respiratory complaints (530), physical assaults (376) and obstetric complains (323).
On the province’s roads, EMS responded to 198 incidents which left several vehicle occupants injured. On 4 March at 19:45, 10 persons suffered injuries in a crash on the Rawsonville Road and were transported to Worcester Hospital. In another crash on 5 March at 20:37, one person died, and 10 others injured when a bakkie overturned on the Old Mamre Road near Darling.
With an escort from the South African Police Service (SAPS), our 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). The EMS remains appreciative of the SAPS’ and other law enforcement agencies' ongoing support, as this helps protect our crews and enables them to care for the most vulnerable patients.
Joshua Pillay, a first responder who works in the Lentegeur area, enjoys working for the EMS as it allows him to care for the vulnerable. The patients that he sees are often affected by poverty, which then affects their clinical conditions. For instance, many of them cannot fetch medication because they cannot afford transport. As a result, they become very ill. He also sees many trauma cases on a given shift such as violent crimes and gang violence, especially in the permanent Red Zone areas.
“The most rewarding part of my job is to see a critically injured or sick person being helped, and seeing the positive change. Working for the EMS enables a person to access continuity of care. In other words, you take a patient from their home, treating them within the ambulance, watching their condition improve, or if not, getting them to the appropriate facility where treatment is initiated, and hopefully the patient improves from that point. So, there is a constant good feeling about it, as you’re making a positive impact in someone’s life,” says Joshua.