HOSPERSA CONSIDERS WITHDRAWING EMS SERVICE AFTER LATEST AMBULANCE ATTACK
9 November 2017
Hospersa is shocked to learn of the latest attack on an ambulance on the N2 highway in Cape Town. An 8 year old patient died after the ambulance transporting him was attacked by three armed men, robbing the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel of their belongings. The Union sends its condolences to the family of the deceased, and is considering withdrawing the service to put pressure on government to address the scourge of these attacks which are depriving community members of urgent medical attention when needed the most.
According to reports, EMS personnel were robbed by three unknown suspects on Tuesday evening on the N2 highway in Cape Town. At the time, the EMS personnel were transporting an 8 year old patient to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. The patient had sustained serious head injuries when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident earlier. The robbers held the EMS personnel at gunpoint, robbing them of their personal belongings before fleeing and leaving the ambulance immobile. A second ambulance had to be dispatched however the delay caused by the robbery contributed to the patient losing his life.
“Hospersa sends its heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the young patient who passed away,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines. “The increasing rate of these attacks on EMS personnel is alarming. It is regrettable that Government’s slow pace in addressing these attacks has now had fatal results,” he added.
Hospersa has previously called for national intervention from the politicians to address the scourge of attacks on EMS workers in the country. These attacks have been increasing at an alarming rate where this year has seen several incidents reported in not just the Western Cape, but in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Free State and in Limpopo. In the case of the Western Cape, there were over 100 attacks in 2016, which prompted Hospersa to write an open letter to the Western Cape Health Member of the Executive Council (MEC) about the issue. The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) of which Hospersa is an affiliate, also wrote a similar letter to the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi requesting intervention at national level.
“When we wrote to the Minister [of Health] we were shunned and told that these attacks are not a health issue but of a criminal nature,” said Desfontaines. “We will again write to the Minister to inform him of our members’ intention to possibly withdraw the service which would make the attacks on our members a health issue,” added Desfontaines.
“We can not have a situation where government continues as if it is business as usual while the system degenerates,” said Desfontaines. “According to the OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] Act employees have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, but as we have previously indicated, such refusal is often problematic. The reason for this is that EMS workers have a duty to serve the community and it becomes very difficult to refuse when somebody in need calls you. Unfortunately, as a last resort our members are considering withdrawing the service” Desfontaines explained.
“The safety of EMS workers needs to be prioritised as they are the first to respond to medical emergencies when called upon. Neglecting their plea for safe working conditions is paralysing the service and depriving community members of medical attention at a time when they need it the most,” concluded Desfontaines.
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For interviews please contact Hospersa’s Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines on 083-321-4427.
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