Labour Unions Join Forces with Ambulance Personnel
Western Cape Government Health, together with the representative unions (PSA, Nehawu, Hospersa, Denosa and Nupsaw) in the Western Cape Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Chamber (WCPHSDSBC) have joined together to raise their concerns for the safety of ambulance personnel and other health workers when they render lifesaving services to citizens in the province.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: “I will be meeting with our EMS (emergency medical services) management to discuss the possible workable options that would dissolve their risk situation and also meet their needs. We will not allow a situation that will continue to put our staff at risk. There have been discussions with SAPS as well. As a government, we need to work closely with Community Safety and community structures to ensure the safety of EMS staff. This close working relationship is always relevant in a volatile situation where people’s lives are at stake.”
The recent spate of attacks on EMS personnel have included staff being held at gunpoint and robbed of expensive lifesaving equipment. Currently, ambulance practitioners are being escorted by police when there is a risk of gang violence. However, due to the police having to conduct patrols in all communities, they are not always available to accompany paramedics into these gang hotspot areas. Both the Western Cape Health Department and unions in the WCPHSDSBC cannot allow a situation whereby ambulance personnel are at risk of losing their lives while trying to save the lives of others.
Violence against EMS staff has also resulted in a tremendous drop in the response times of emergency medical calls due to long delays when police escorts are not readily available. Gang violence has also had a psychological and emotional impact on staff, as they have also been caught up in the crossfire at times.
We call upon all stakeholders, including the public to have a zero tolerance for any action that threatens the safety of our health workers as they must be allowed to fulfil their constitutional duties to take care of the ill. The equipment in an ambulance vehicle has been provided to save lives. If the situation continues, ambulance services, in particular rapid response to critical incidents, will be severely affected, thus contributing to loss of lives. Health workers are there to serve all the citizens of the Western Cape and we condemn any threats of their lives and interference with their work.
The Western Cape Government urges all communities to look out for the safety of our personnel, if you see anyone endangering the lives of our EMS personnel call the police immediately and report it.
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